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."


  1. Keith says

    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?

  2. voet says

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

  3. jamal49 says

    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.

  4. Patric says

    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.”

  5. Winston says

    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.

  6. anon says

    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.

  7. walter says

    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..

  8. arch says

    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.