Timeline: Christian counsellor Gary McFarlane gay row
A relationship counsellor from Bristol who claimed he had been discriminated against after being fired for saying he might have an objection to providing sex therapy to a same-sex couple on account of his Christian faith has had his case rejected by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Gary McFarlane was one of four Christians who claimed they lost their jobs as a result of discrimination against their beliefs. He took his case to the ECHR after losing his religious discrimination case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2009.
Today, the ECHR ruled only one of the four Christians - Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee who was prevented from wearing a cross - had been discriminated against.
Mr McFarlane, a counsellor from Hanham, was dismissed by the Avon branch of relationship charity Relate in March 2008 for gross misconduct for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
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Here we recap on the events which led up to today’s ruling:
May 2003: Gary McFarlane starts training with Relate. In the years that follow, Mr McFarlane provides relationship counselling to a number of same-sex couples.
October 2007: Mr McFarlane begins training as a sex therapist. He is asked by his employer what his stance would be on providing sex therapy to those in gay relationships once he qualifies.
Mr McFarlane is suspended following meetings with management after saying he might have a conscientious objection to providing sex therapy to a same-sex couple on account of his Christian faith.
March 2008: Following a further disciplinary hearing, Mr McFarlane is dismissed on March 18.
December 2008: Mr McFarlane takes his case to an employment tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal, harassment and discrimination on the grounds of religion.
He also claims his views are “evolving”.
January 2009: An employment tribunal rules Mr McFarlane was wrongfully dismissed. The panel dismisses Mr McFarlane's claims of unlawful discrimination and his claim of unfair dismissal, but upholds his claim of wrongful dismissal.
November 2009: Mr McFarlane loses his fight at the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in London to prove discrimination by Relate. He is supported in his appeal by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) which says a further appeal will be lodged against the decision.
April 2010: Mr McFarlane travels to the Court of Appeal in London to get permission to make a renewed appeal to prove religious discrimination by Relate. He says he wants his appeal to be heard before a specially selected panel of judges.
Mr McFarlane is backed by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey.
July 2012: Prime Minister David Cameron vows to change the law to make clear people can wear religious symbols at work if it turns out the law has the intention of banning the display of religious symbols in the workplace.
September 2012: It is announced Mr McFarlane will be taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights along with three other Christians.
They maintain their employers' actions went against articles nine and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect their rights to "freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and prohibit religious discrimination.
Mr McFarlane tells This is Bristol: “All I am asking for is a level playing field. I am not looking to champion one group of rights against another. The pendulum has swung too far against Christians in favour of the other.”
January 2013: The European Court of Human Rights rejects the cases of Mr McFarlane; Exeter nurse Shirley Chaplin who was banned from working on hospital wards for wearing a cross around her neck; and registrar Lillian Ladele, who was disciplined by Islington Council for refusing to conduct civil partnership ceremonies for homosexual couples.
The Court rules Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee who was prevented from wearing a cross, was discriminated against, however.