Gay priest who married partner loses employment discrimination claim

The gay clergyman who was prevented from becoming a hospital chaplain after he married his partner has lost his case claiming he was discriminated against by his bishop.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton also lost his claim that he had been harrassed.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton (left) married Laurence Cunnington in April last year.Jeremy Pemberton/Twitter

Canon Pemberton had his permission to officiate as a priest withdrawn last year after marrying his partner Laurence Cunnington in a civil ceremony. He was refused a licence to take up a new chaplaincy post with Sherwood NHS, meaning the job offer was withdrawn. The decision were taken by the acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Richard Inwood, in line with the Church of England's current position on the issue.

Canon Pemberton took his claim to an employment tribunal, heard at Nottingham, arguing that the Church of England's stance on same-sex marriage breached the 2010 Equality Act.

The tribunal heard that Canon Pemberton had originally been married to a woman and had travelled with her to work in Congo as a priest. Back in England, by 2006 he was aware he was gay and had a nervous breakdown. He resigned his ministry, moved to Southwell and he and his wife separated and divorced. By 2008 he had met and was openly living with Mr Cunnington, and also that year was licensed as a community chaplain in the Southwell and Nottingham diocese, at which point he swore an oath of canonical obedience to his bishop.

The tribunal noted that he could have opted for a civil partnership with Mr Cunnington, which would have left him within church law. "They had not wanted to do so for reasons which we understand. They valued the sanctity and commitment of marriage and that is what they wanted." 

Canon Pemberton's marriage meant a job offer to be a bereavement manager for the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust was withdrawn becasue Bishop Inwood declined to issue a licence. Canon Pemberton claimed this was discriminated because of his sexual orientation but Bishop Inwood said same-sex marriage was against Church doctrine.

Canon Pemberton said afterwards: "We are obviously very disappointed. Our lawyers have considered the judgment and are in the process of preparing the grounds of appeal for submission to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. We would like to thank all of those who have supported us through this litigation process thus far."

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham said: "We are thankful to the tribunal for its work on this complex case and for its findings in favour of the Right Rev Richard Inwood, on all the claims made against him. We recognise that it has been a long and difficult process for all concerned, and we continue to hold them in our thoughts and prayers.

"Churches across the diocese continue to offer a generous welcome to people from all backgrounds. We remain engaged in the on-going shared conversations across the wider Church of England that are exploring questions relating to human sexuality."