Registrars ‘refused to run gay ceremonies’

Two registrars are being investigated after allegedly refusing to conduct same-sex partnership ceremonies because they went against their religious beliefs.

It is claimed they swapped their shifts at a register office informally to avoid the civil unions.

Both work at Lambeth town hall in Brixton, south London. The allegations were made by another registrar at an equality seminar in May.

Brian Palmer, a Lambeth councillor who is homosexual, asked at a full council meeting what measures were being taken to prevent a similar situation happening again. “Such actions will be grossly offensive to many members of the borough’s large LGBT community including myself,” he said.

Steve Reed, the council’s leader, replied: “The council must and will comply with all legislation and our own equalities codes in this regard. Any failure on the part of officers to comply will be dealt with appropriately.”

He said the chief executive would ensure that all staff were aware they were obliged to provide services equally to all residents, adding: “This council does not tolerate bigotry for any reason.”

A Lambeth council spokesman confirmed that an investigation had begun. “The registrars’ service has never declined to administer a civil partnership enquiry, booking, taking of a notice or indeed delivering a ceremony or registration,” the spokesman said. “We are very clear that no one has, or ever will in the future, be turned down for a civil partnership for any reason other than that we cannot accommodate the date or time they request.”

The names of the two registrars alleged to have avoided conducting ceremonies have not been disclosed.

In March, an Islington registrar was denied leave to appeal at the Supreme Court after being threatened with the sack in 2007 for refusing to carry out civil partnerships.

Lillian Ladele, a Christian, said her rights had been “trampled” by gay couples but a Court of Appeal judge ruled that exceptions to the law could only rarely be made in a “modern liberal democracy”.


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