A CHRISTIAN demoted by his employer for saying that gay marriage in churches was “an equality too far” should be given his job back and compensated, one of Northern Ireland’s leading gay rights activists last night said.
Last week London’s High Court ruled against Trafford Housing Trust after it disciplined Adrian Smith for the comment on his personal Facebook page by demoting him to a non-managerial post with a £14,000 cut in salary.
However, due to legal complexities, Mr Smith could only be awarded £98 in damages and the judge said that the case left “the uncomfortable feeling that justice has not been done to him. I must admit to real disquiet about the financial outcome of this case”.
However, despite losing the case, Trafford Housing Trust has refused to reinstate the devout Christian to his former post or restore his salary.
Jeffrey Dudgeon, whose landmark 1981 European court case led to homosexuality being decriminalised in Northern Ireland, said: “I am pleased to hear the result of the case in favour of Adrian Smith. It seemed to be completely needless demotion and attempted dismissal for something quite harmless.
“What he said was by no means aggressive and that action against him had the essence of witch hunting.
“Minorities, when they become emancipated, need to avoid triumphalism.
“I would hope that he would get his previous position restored to him and the income he has lost compensated. To my mind the whole thing is just spectacularly dreadful.”
Mr Smith has also received vocal support from the prominent gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell who said that the court case was “a victory for free speech and fair play”.
He said: “Adrian Smith is entitled to his view and should never have been demoted.
“I am glad that my statement in support of Adrian was used in his legal case and that he has been vindicated.
“Adrian’s opposition to religious organisations being forced to conduct same-sex marriages is shared by the Prime Minister and the Equality Minister, the gay rights group Stonewall and the entire leadership of the Church of England. If Mr Smith is guilty, then they are all guilty.
“Mr Smith voiced his opinion in a calm, non-abusive manner. He was not threatening or intimidating ... I wish Adrian supported gay marriages in churches, but he is not a nasty homophobe.
“It was always absurd to suggest that he was some kind of bigot. He’s not.”
He added: “In a democratic society, Adrian has a right to express his point of view, even if it is misguided and wrong.
“Freedom of speech should only be limited or penalised in serious circumstances, such as when a person incites violence against others. Mr Smith’s words did not cross this threshold.”