A UK tribunal has ruled in favour of a Christian registrar who refused to carry out same-sex civil partnerships because of her religious views.

Lillian Ladele, who works for the Islington Council as a marriage registrar, took her employers to court in a discrimination case after she was threatened with being fired if she did not perform her duties for same-sex couples.

Even though she works for a secular institution the Central London Employment Tribunal found in Ladele’s favour saying that “Islington Council rightly considered the importance of the right of the gay community not to be discriminated against but did not consider the right of Miss Ladele as a member of a religious group.”

The ruling means that council employees may now be able to choose to refuse to service gay or lesbian people because of their moral or religious beliefs.

“I am delighted with the decision. It is a victory for religious liberty, not just for myself but for others in a similar position to mine. Gay rights should not be used as an excuse to bully or harass people over their religious beliefs,” Ladele told the BBC after the decision.

While Christian groups have hailed the tribunal, gay rights activists have slammed the ruling saying that the logic could mean that officials could also refuse to marry mixed race couples if this went against their personal or religious beliefs.

“If this judgement stands, it will pave the way for religious people to have the legal entitlement to discriminate on conscientious grounds against people of other faiths, unmarried parents and many others who they condemn as immoral,” said gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell.

“We could soon find religious police officers, solicitors, fire fighters and doctors refusing to serve members of the public who they find morally objectionable – and being allowed to do so by the law,” he added.

In South Africa, Home Affairs officials may apply to the minister to be exempted from conducting same-sex civil union; a loophole that local gay rights groups claim is unconstitutional.

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