BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — The European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT rights reports that the European Court of Human Rights has made a "landmark ruling" that religious beliefs cannot trump the rights of gay couples.
The ruling upheld British laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, the rights group says, noting that among the cases the court looked at were two brought by Christians who contended their beliefs permitted them to deny service to gay couples.
In one case, the court considered the dismissal of London civil registrar Lillian Ladele for refusing to officiate at civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples after they became legal in 2005. Ladele says she was discriminated against because of her faith, but the court found there was no discrimination, ruling that British courts' decision to uphold her dismissal "struck the right balance between her right to freedom of religion, and same-sex couples’ right not to be discriminated against," the Intergroup reports.
In another case, a counsellor who was dismissed for his refusal to work with gay couples also cited incompatibility with his religious beliefs. The European court ruled there was no violation of his right to freedom of belief.
Sophie in 't Veld, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) and vice-president of the LGBT Intergroup, is quoted as saying that the court "conclusively" demonstrated that "the principle of equality and equal treatment cannot be circumvented with a simple reference to religion.”
“British law rightly protects LGBT people from discrimination, and there is no exemption for religious believers. Religion and belief are deeply private and personal, and should never be used to diminish the rights of others,” adds Michael Cashman, also an MEP and the LGBT Group's co-president.
An appeal of the court's ruling may be filed within three months.
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