Last Updated: 7 July 2006
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Religious Liberty Cases

Council receives death threats because its registrars won't conduct civil partnership ceremonies


Summary

In 2006 the Western Isles Council in Scotland received hate mail and death threats because its registrars refused, on moral grounds, to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

Registrars in the Western Isles of Scotland refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies. They did not believe that solemnising homosexual relationships was morally right. The Western Isles Council backed their decision. The Council says it will fulfil its legal obligations to register partnerships, but will not be offering additional wedding-like ceremonies (which are not required by law). The Scottish Executive said it may fly in registrars from the mainland to conduct such ceremonies.1

The Council has since received hate mail from around the world as a result of their highly principled decision. Emails included a death threat saying that councillors should be "hanged from the nearest tree".2

Council spokesman said "We are complying with the law. We have used our powers of discretion. The law is slightly different for heterosexual couples, and that is why they have been treated differently. There is no requirement in a civil partnership to hold a ceremony."3

This is confirmed by a legal opinion produced for The Christian Institute by leading lawyer, James Dingemans QC. He confirms that local registration authorities are not obliged to offer ceremonies to those registering a partnership under the Act. In addition, he believes it would be unlawful to apply disciplinary proceedings against a registrar who refuses to register a civil partnership arguing that this could break laws against religious discrimination in the workplace.4

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