Court victory for housing manager demoted in gay marriage row
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Legal
Court victory for housing manager demoted in gay marriage affair
A housing manager who was demoted by his housing association for posting internet comments about gay marriage has won a court battle against his employer.
Trafford Housing Trust (THT) demoted Adrian Smith from his management position and gave him a 40% pay cut after he wrote on his Facebook page that gay marriage was "an equality too far".
Mr Smith started legal action against THT with the financial backing of The Christian Institute.
It was revealed during the trial that the housing association took action against Mr Smith because it was concerned that it would lose a gay rights charter award if it didn't.
However the judge, Mr Justice Briggs, ruled that THT had no right to demote Mr Smith and had breached the terms of his contract. He said: “In my judgment Mr Smith’s postings about gay marriage in church are not, viewed objectively, judgmental, disrespectful or liable to cause upset or offence.
“As to their content, they are widely held views frequently to be heard on radio and television, or read in the newspapers.” Justice Briggs also rejected claims that Mr Smith’s comments were homophobic.
Mr Smith said: “I have won today. But what will tomorrow bring? I am fearful that, if marriage is redefined, there will be more cases like mine – and if the law of marriage changes people like me may not win in court.
“Does the Prime Minister want to create a society where people like me, people who believe in traditional marriage, are treated as outcasts? That may not be his intention, but that’s what will happen.
Matthew Gardiner, chief executive at Trafford Housing Trust, said: “We fully accept the court’s decision and I have made a full and sincere apology to Adrian. At the time we believed we were taking the appropriate action following discussions with our employment solicitors and taking into account his previous disciplinary record.
“We have always vigorously denied allegations that the Trust had breached an employee’s rights to freedom of religious expression under Human Rights and Equalities legislation and in a written judgment handed down on 21st March 2012, a district judge agreed that these matters should be struck out.
“This has been a case about the interpretation of our code of conduct and the use of social media by our managers.
“This case has highlighted the challenges that businesses face with the increased use of social media and we have reviewed our documentation and procedures to avoid a similar situation arising in the future. Adrian remains employed by the Trust and I am pleased this matter has now concluded.”