TEACHERS could face disciplinary action, including dismissal, if
they fail to endorse same-sex marriage, suggests legal advice
published by the pressure group Coalition for Marriage.
The warning came in the week when the
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, briefly labelled opponents of
the Government's same-sex marriage consultation "bigots", and the
Green Party expelled a Brighton & Hove councillor for voting
against a motion endorsing same-sex marriage.
The Coalition for Marriage reported
that a leading EU lawyer, Aidan O'Neill QC, had written: "If gay
marriage became law in England and Wales, a school would be within
its legal rights to dismiss a teacher if he or she refused to use
material in the classroom that endorses gay marriage."
A spokeswoman, Dr Sharon James, said:
"Mr O'Neill's expert summary is incontrovertible proof that
legalising gay marriage is not only a legislative minefield, but an
unparalleled attack on the freedom of conscience Britons have under
Mr Clegg's "bigot" comment was
included in an embargoed version of a speech to members of the
Equal Marriage Coalition. His office told journalists that Mr Clegg
would say: "Continued trouble in the economy gives the bigots a
stick to beat us with, as they demand we 'postpone' the equalities
agenda in order to deal with 'the things people really care about'.
As if pursuing greater equality and fixing the economy simply
cannot happen at once."
Ninety minutes later, a revised
version was distributed, in which the phrase was substituted "some
people". On Wednesday afternoon, Mr Clegg wrote to Dr Williams and
the RC Archbishop of Westminster, to express his regret. The early
extracts of the speech "were neither written nor approved by me,"
he wrote. "They do not represent my views, which is why they were
Mr Clegg said that the Government's
consultation on same-sex marriage had produced a record-breaking
228,000 responses: four-and-a-half-times more than the next-biggest
response, on high-speed rail. "Not everyone in those 228,000 will
be pro, that's for sure. But you certainly can't dispute the strong
feeling on both sides," he said. On Wednesday, officials refused to
disclose what proportion of the responses favoured same-sex
On Monday, it was announced that the
Green Party had expelled a Brighton & Hove councillor,
Christina Summers, for voting against a motion endorsing same-sex
A spokesman for the Green Party, Rob
Shepherd, said that, as far as the Green Party was concerned,
"equality for all people" included an explicit commitment to
same-sex marriage. He said that it was "such an important part of
Green Party policies. Failure to see this is like a failure to see
and recognise other Green Party policies, such as on ecology and
climate change." The Green Party said that it was "as welcoming of
Christians as it is of any other faith". Its chief executive and
national chair are both Christians.
Cllr Summers, who is considering
seeking a judicial review, said: "In view of the Green Party's own
special interpretation of equality, my expulsion from the Green
Group of councillors should not, in the end, come as a
The Evangelical Alliance's director of
advocacy, Dr Dave Landrum, asked whether the Green Party was
"inclusive or extremist", and said that the decision to discipline
her over the vote showed a "serious lack of thinking about what
equality and diversity actually are".
The director of the Christian Legal
Centre, Andrea Minichiello Williams, a General Synod member, said:
"Cllr Summers's view of marriage as being the union of a man and a
woman is consistent with the teachings of mainstream, historic
Christianity. Is the door of the Green Party now closed to