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UK Judge Rules Anti-Discrimination Laws Protect People, Not Beliefs

A UK judge today threw out the case of a sexual therapist who refused to serve gay couples because it went against his religious beliefs.

Laws In his opinion against Gary McFarlane, Lord Justice Laws said:

"We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion - any belief system - cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens, and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic. The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the State, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself."

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who was backing McFarlane, called for "a specially constituted panel of judges with a 'proven sensitivity and understanding of religious issues' to hear the case."

Lord Justice Laws went on to dismiss Carey's plea:

"In a free constitution such as ours there is an important distinction to be drawn between the law's protection of the right to hold and express a belief and the law's protection of that belief's substance or content. [He said the Judaeo-Christian tradition had exerted a 'profound influence' on the judgment of lawmakers.] 'But the conferment of any legal protection of preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however long its culture, is deeply unprincipled."

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  1. Huzzah!!!! Lord Justice for President... oh, wait.. ;)

    Posted by: Darren | Apr 29, 2010 1:06:46 PM

  2. And that is what the voice of reason sounds like.

    Posted by: seeldee | Apr 29, 2010 1:11:33 PM

  3. Is he eligible to be on the U.S. Supreme Court? Since our Constitution is based upon the UK's Magna Carta in many respects, could we not use this same logic and reasoning in our fight for equality?

    Posted by: Keith | Apr 29, 2010 1:17:41 PM

  4. He looks like Charles Nelson Reilly.

    Posted by: grego | Apr 29, 2010 1:21:02 PM

  5. I like this guy!

    Thank you, Lord Justice Laws, for telling it like it is.

    Posted by: ichabod | Apr 29, 2010 1:23:43 PM

  6. I didn't know Elton John was a UK judge.

    Posted by: Wes | Apr 29, 2010 1:33:52 PM

  7. He has the coolest name any judge could have!

    Posted by: Bryan C. | Apr 29, 2010 1:44:21 PM

  8. yea! common sense is still alive somewhere.

    Posted by: nic | Apr 29, 2010 1:51:39 PM

  9. What does a "sexual therapist" DO, anyway?

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Apr 29, 2010 1:52:38 PM

  10. Even learned hand? LOL!

    Posted by: TANK | Apr 29, 2010 1:52:45 PM

  11. Obviously this guy uses his head for more than a wig stand. Hopefully our Supremes are listening.

    Posted by: voet | Apr 29, 2010 2:00:41 PM

  12. One hopes that American jurisprudence will mature to the level of thinking of Lord Justice Laws. He stated, in plain English and with elegant simplicity, that democracy and pluralism are superior to any theology or "religious belief". One awaits commentary from the theo-cons and their ilk in this country on the Lord Justice's ruling.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Apr 29, 2010 2:16:59 PM

  13. Wow, he really articulated the key point as well as anyone I've heard.

    Key points:

    "The precepts of any one religion - any belief system - cannot, ****by force of their religious origins****, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other."

    Posted by: Patric | Apr 29, 2010 2:20:56 PM

  14. The light at the end of this long tunnel suddenly got a little brighter.

    Posted by: castaway | Apr 29, 2010 2:26:57 PM

  15. Another reason why I fled the US -- land of my birth -- for the UK.

    My question is if the therapist had a problem with giving counseling to straight unmarried couples as well? I bet he didn't and hence it makes his religious argument untenable.

    Posted by: Winston | Apr 29, 2010 2:34:24 PM

  16. Oh look, David Ehrenstein's ratty wig!

    Posted by: GrabbinNewscum | Apr 29, 2010 2:45:23 PM

  17. There is no Bill of Rights in the UK, (and the judges are not a fully independent branch of govt either), so a law banning discrimination against gays would not have to compete with anything like the first amendment. However, several states put gays in a protected class under civil law, even if this is not done on a Federal level.

    Posted by: anon | Apr 29, 2010 2:52:03 PM

  18. smarter than any our supreme court justices
    especially scalia the weasel. somebody should make this ruling required reading for the dimwitted 9 in d.c..

    Posted by: walter | Apr 29, 2010 6:23:04 PM

  19. You can read the full judgement here:


    Fortunately it's relatively short (only 28 paragraphs).

    Posted by: dreamfish | Apr 29, 2010 6:49:59 PM

  20. As a british lawyer I am very proud of this decision. US and UK judges do take note of what each other say in judgments so perhaps this might find its way to the reading lists of your supreme court justices.

    Oh and by the way there is a brtish judge with an even more apt name, the current Lord Chief Justice (England's most senior judge) is called Lord Judge.

    Posted by: arch | Apr 30, 2010 7:51:47 AM

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