The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has expressed its bafflement that the Equalities Commission is intervening in the appeal of Lillian Ladele – the Registrar dismissed after refusing to conduct civil partnerships, and of Relationship Counsellor Gary MacFarlane also dismissed for declining to counsel gay couples.
The Equalities Commission has advised that it will be looking to establish a principle of “reasonable compromise” to accommodate people’s religious beliefs.
GALHA Chair Adam Knowles commented:
“It is simply wrong for people to claim that if they are not allowed to discriminate against gay people then they themselves are somehow being discriminated against. However the real implications of the case transcend questions of gay rights or religious rights.
“The whole issue of “reasonable compromise” will be a highly subjective one. If, for example someone is exempted from providing services to gay couples because of their religious objections, then anyone with a deeply held belief on any subject would on the face of it be entitled to make a similar claim. For example a public sector employee might have a conscientious objection to religiously run schools and refuse to deal with them. Members of the public may also in turn not wish to be served by people who they saw as practicing discrimination, further reducing the effectiveness as well as the fairness of the services. The result would be chaotic and divisive as we tried to sort out which objections and compromises were ‘reasonable’, and which were not.
“As Humanists we believe passionately that everyone should have the freedom to express their beliefs, including ones that Humanists or gay people may find objectionable. People also have the right to follow their beliefs in their personal lives so long as no harm is done to others. However in providing services to the public, you either follow the rules, and treat all people equally, or else essentially you need to look for another job.”