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Gay Priest Loses Sexual Orientation Discrimination Case

A gay priest has lost his case for sexual discrimination.

Mr Jeremy Pemberton brought his claim for sexual orientation discrimination because he was refused a licence needed to take up a post as a hospital chaplain after he married his same-sex partner in a civil ceremony. Mr Pemberton claimed against Reverend Richard Inwood who was the acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham at the time.

The reverend told the employment tribunal that same-sex marriage was against the Church of England’s doctrine, which is that marriage is between one man and one woman. Adhering to the Church’s doctrine was a requirement to being given the licence.

The tribunal ruled that the decision not to allow Mr Pemberton the licence was direct discrimination because of sexual orientation – had he married a woman there would have been no problem. However, the Church had a defence (under the Equality Act 2010) to such discrimination because the employment was for the purposes of an organised religion, i.e. they were allowed to discriminate so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion.

Mr Pemberton therefore lost his case.

Expert Opinion

The result may appear strange as, in another diocese, there is a gay vicar married to his same-sex partner who has been allowed to continue to officiate. This is because bishops are given discretion on how to handle issues with their clergymen within the area they look after.

As a result of the tribunal ruling, the gay priest cannot do bereavement work for the NHS. He had applied to become a bereavement manager at the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust in Nottingham. However, because his licence has been taken away, disallowing him from officiating, he is no longer able to take up the position.

Slater and Gordon employment solicitor, Harriet Bowtell, said: “This case highlights the competing tensions between the Church and the LGBT clergy. It is clearly a disappointing result for Jeremy Pemberton but it has certainly brought these issues to the fore yet again and we can hope it may promote further discussion of the issues within the Church.”

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have an in-depth knowledge of sexual orientation legislation and years of experience advising people in sexual orientation discrimination cases. We offer a free, confidential service assessing how successful we expect your case for sexual orientation discrimination will be.

All you need to do is fill out our sexual orientation discrimination at work case assessment form and an employment solicitor will assess your case and get back to you.

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