Joshua Rozenberg is correct that ultimately the human rights issues raised by the appeals on faith grounds to the ECHR raise a question of balancing competing ideals. But he is wrong to come down on the side of the appellants. Ultimately we are dealing with the obligations of professionals.
As a fellow professional (albeit a solicitor, not a registrar or a relationship counsellor) I take the law on equal opportunities seriously. Despite the fact that I also happen to be gay, it would be totally wrong of me to refuse to take instructions from homophobic clients, whether or not their beliefs are held as a result of religious conviction, and notwithstanding that, at my firm, colleagues who are straight could take instructions instead.
While I would fight to uphold the appellants’ rights to hold their religious beliefs – whatever they are – in a personal capacity, they are compromised as professionals by allowing their beliefs to interfere with their work-day obligations to others.
I am tempted to suggest that where one’s professional obligations conflict so seriously with one’s personal beliefs, one should perhaps find a different job where such conflict is not an occupational hazard. I know it’s not easy, but then that’s (professional) life.
Jonathan Wheeler, Bolt Burdon Kemp, London N1