Clergyman who defied C of E on same-sex marriage loses discrimination case

A gay clergyman who was disciplined for violating Church of England teaching on marriage has lost his case at the Court of Appeal.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton entered into a same-sex marriage in 2014, despite C of E rules not allowing clergy to do so.

The Court said the Church had applied “its sincerely held beliefs in a way expressly permitted” by the Equality Act.


The long running legal case began after Canon Pemberton had his licence as a priest officially revoked for his action.

The clergyman mounted an employment discrimination case, giving evidence in 2015 that “no one has the right to tell you who you can or can’t 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 of this year.


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”.

Lady Justice Asplin said the employment tribunal had previously found that there had been “lengthy discussions” over Pemberton’s intentions: “Therefore, the consequences in relation to his standing cannot have been much of a surprise.”

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


The clergyman said he had agreed with the Church not to continue the case – and that the C of E would not pursue legal costs against him.

He called for a “revolution” in the Church on its stance on marriage and said he hoped to return to active ministry.

The 2015 employment tribunal ruling had said: “The claimant would never have been in this position had he not defied the doctrine of the church.

“The claimant knowingly entered into that marriage and knew what the potential consequences could be for him.”

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