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England: City clerk refuses to officiate at civil partnerships because of faith

Here we go — what is it with these people? Holy rolling pharmacists not filling prescriptions for birth control, and in this case, civil servants not performing civil services because of their personal religious beliefs. Great Britain has had its Civil Partnership Act since 2004, which gives same-sex couples equivalent rights as married couples.

On the heels of last week’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriages in California, a city clerk in England is suing her employer for the right not to officiate at homosexual weddings because of her faith.

“I feel strongly about maintaining my Christian beliefs and conscience,” Lillian Ladele told the London Telegraph. “I can’t go against what it says in the Bible. I don’t understand why the council can’t use other people who have no problem with the ceremonies.”

Islington council in London informed the registrar she could be fired unless she agrees to preside at the ceremonies. Ladele claims “discrimination or victimization on grounds of religion or belief.”

…But Ben Summerskill of the homosexual rights group Stonewall told the paper: “Doctors and nurses can’t choose who they treat, and nor should a registrar be allowed to discriminate.”

This is the inevitable conflict that the fundies here will hang their hats on — whose rights have sway here? In the case of  Ladele, I’m not sure why they cannot accommodate her request if other clerks are available to perform the ceremonies, but if the job description says she must perform any and all legal civil ceremonies, then she’s SOL.

Remember back in January when Muslim cab drivers in Minnesota were refusing to serve passengers that had alcohol, or used guide dogs, citing their faith? It’s a difficult and thorny issue – public accommodation versus legal respect for religious freedom.

In the end, how do you think these kinds of cases will be resolved in the U.S.?  

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding