Law sought to protect consciences

01 February 2013

CONSCIENTIOUS beliefs about the definition of marriage should be a "protected characteristic" under the Equality Act, an MP said this week.

Edward Leigh, the Conservative member for Gainsborough, secured Commons support, through the ten-minute-rule procedure, to bring in a Bill to give beliefs about marriage the same legal protection as age, disability, and race.

Moving his Bill, Mr Leigh recalled the case of Adrian Smith, who won a High Court case against his employers, the Trafford Housing Trust, after he was demoted for putting a post on Facebook that described same-sex marriage as "an equality too far" ( News, 23 November).

"His case cost him, and the charity that supported him, £30,000. He got £98-worth of damages," Mr Leigh said. "If the Government succeeds in redefining marriage, the problem will get much worse.

"No one can force an atheist teacher to teach religion. . . During World War Two, when we were in a life-and-death situation, we allowed the existence of conscientious objections. But in 21st-century Britain, woe betide anyone who refuses to declare full support for same-sex marriage in their workplace or classroom."

His Bill was opposed by Steve Doughty (Labour, Cardiff South and Penarth), who said Mr Leigh was using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. "The Equality Act already provides safeguards . . . and does not need further clarification."

Mr Leigh's Bill was approved by 86 votes to 31; and is due to receive its Second Reading on 1 March.


The Church Times Podcast

Interviews and news analysis from the Church Times team. Listen to this week’s episode online

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read up to twelve articles for free. (You will need to register.)