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Ethics – CofE same-sex decision upheld

May 2018

A gay clergyman, disciplined for violating Church of England (CofE) teaching on marriage, has lost his case at the Court of Appeal.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton entered into a same-sex marriage in 2014, despite CofE rules not allowing clergy to do so. He had his licence as a priest revoked for this action, whereupon he began a legal case. In 2015, he gave evidence, stating ‘no one has the right to tell you who you can or cannot marry’. But the tribunal rejected his legal arguments, and in 2016 an employment appeals tribunal agreed.

The Court of Appeal heard his case in January this year, before giving its decision on March. It said the CofE had applied ‘its sincerely held beliefs in a way expressly permitted’ by the Equality Act.

In its ruling, Lord Justice Underhill told Canon Pemberton: ‘If you belong to an institution with known and lawful rules’, it is justifiable that ‘those rules should be applied to you, however wrong you may believe them to be’.

The CofE diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, which revoked Canon Pemberton’s licence, welcomed the court’s ruling.