Former minister Edward Leigh is seeking to change the law to protect workers who hold traditional views on marriage. Following the case of a Christian housing trust manager who was demoted for airing his views on same-sex ‘marriage’ on Facebook, the Conservative MP is calling for a change to the Equality Act to prevent this happening again, reports Christian Concern for our Nation.
When Adrian Smith, 55, expressed the view that same-sex weddings in churches were “an equality too far”, he was stripped of his management position at Trafford Housing Trust in Manchester and had his salary almost halved.
The posting, amid a discussion thread on his personal Facebook page, echoed what was Government policy at the time but a colleague took offence, prompting his demotion.
And even though he won a legal challenge against his treatment, the High Court had no power to order his reinstatement.
Fears for other workers
Mr Leigh fears that teachers and other public servants could be punished and “treated as outcasts” for refusing to promote same-sex ‘marriage’ if it becomes law later this year.
It follows legal advice by the human rights specialist Aidan O’Neill QC, who concluded that teachers and hospital or prison chaplains would be among those affected.
10 minute rule bill
The former trade minister, who served under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, is bringing forward a 10 minute rule bill in the House of Commons next week, which could open the way for an amendment to the Equality Act to protect such people.
In his address next week Mr Leigh will accuse the Government, led by his own party, as “arrogant” and “out of touch” on the question of marriage.
“As Aidan O’Neill’s legal opinion suggests, if the Government is successful in redefining marriage, then there are hundreds of thousands of teachers, parents, foster carers, or even hospital and army chaplains who could find themselves being disciplined for their beliefs, just as Adrian Smith was,” he said.
“To think otherwise is out of touch with reality.
“If the Government is serious about protecting those who back the current definition of marriage from being marginalised for their beliefs then it must act immediately to change the Equality Act.
“If it does not then it will open the door to Christians, Muslims, Jews - and anyone else with a conscientious objection - being disciplined, demoted, or even sacked for backing the current definition of marriage.”
Mr Leigh’s proposed changes to the Equality Act would make “conscientious beliefs about the definition of marriage” a protected characteristic alongside those such as gender, race, age or disability.