Judges at the European Court of Human Rights have blocked the final legal avenue for two Christians who refused to do their jobs for gay people.
Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane both argued their beliefs meant they couldn’t work with gay and lesbian couples and that forcing them to do so amounted to discrimination.
The court ruled against them on 15 January saying their rights had not been infringed by their employers.
But they tried to bring the case to the court’s Grand Chamber, its final arbiter. Judges however have rejected that request today (28 May), ending their legal battle.
Ladele was a marriage registrar for Islington Borough Council in north London who refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples when they were legalized in 2004.
In 2007 bosses changed the way she was employed, so she could no longer choose to avoid civil partnerships.
She argued Islington bosses were forcing her to choose between her religious beliefs and her job. She won her case in 2008 but an Employment Tribunal Appeal hearing reversed that decision in December of that year and that new ruling in the council’s favor was upheld in 2009 by the British Court of Appeal.
Gary McFarlane’s worked for relationship counseling organization Relate at a time when it was making big strides to include lesbian and gay couples as well as heterosexuals.
He was a sex therapist – which Relate describes as ‘unshockable’ counselors dedicated to people improving their sex lives to help them improve their relationship.
But as a Christian, McFarlane said he wouldn’t be prepared to work with gay and lesbian couples in that way if the subject ever came up.
He was suspended in October 2007 and eventually dismissed for gross misconduct in March 2008.
His case was turned down by an internal appeal board within Relate, then by an Employment Tribunal. An appeal also failed and in 2010 the Court of Appeal twice refused to allow him further appeals.
Both took their cases to the European Court of Human Rights in September last year.
The fact McFarlane and Ladele lost may set a far-reaching precedent, meaning workers across Europe will not be allowed to use their religion as an excuse for refusing services or products to LGBT people.
They were joined by two other Christians, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin both of whom were banned from wearing their crucifixes at work.
Eweida won her case although Chaplin also lost her’s. Chaplin has today also lost her final appeal, which followed the same route as McFarlane and Ladele.