It was pleasing to see common sense prevail with the high court verdict in the case of Adrian Smith, who was demoted by his employer for expressing views on gay marriage.
In voicing his concerns over the government’s plans to introduce gay marriage, Smith wrote on his Facebook page in 2010: “The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women.”
He added: “If the state wants to offer civil marriages to the same sex then that is up to the state; but the state shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.”
Despite publishing the Facebook comments in his own time, and visible only to his friends, his employer found him to be in breach of their Code of Conduct for employees, and subsequently removed him from his management position in the company while also cutting Mr Smith’s pay by 40%.
But today, Trafford Housing Trust were found to be in breach of contract, with the judge stating that Adrian Smith had done nothing wrong.
Speaking on Sky News, a media spokesman for the gay rights organisation Stonewall – who recently came under fire for handing out a ‘Bigot of the Year’ award to an opponent of gay marriage – agreed that Trafford Housing had acted in a “very heavy-handed way”, and had treated Adrian inappropriately.
The case again raises concerns over the way in which people on each side of debates such as gay marriage are too easily labelled for having a differing opinion, and again highlights a Britain which is becoming less and less tolerant – despite an increase in organisations claiming to be interested in equality.
In this instance, it would be common to hear the phrase ‘bigot’ thrown around.
Yet by definition, the only parties who could be considered to be bigoted in the case of Adrian would be the person responsible for reporting the comments, and the company itself – both of whom were so unwilling to hear a different viewpoint that they felt it necessary to launch disciplinary action.
On sensitive matters such as gay marriage, there has to be room for people to express views in a way that reflects their own beliefs. Believing something that may go against a majority does not automatically equate to causing offence – it’s merely an alternative voice in a bigger debate.
Thankfully, the verdict delivered by Mr Justice Briggs allows for such debate to continue – for the time being, at least.