LGBT campaigners have welcomed a European Court ruling rejecting the claims of two Britons who had argued their religious beliefs should allow them to discriminate against gay couples.
Marriage counsellor Gary McFarlane, who was sacked for saying he might object to offering sex therapy to homosexuals, and registrar Lillian Ladele, who was disciplined when she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies, both lost their legal action at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) today.
Norther Ireland's largest LGBT organisation the Rainbow Project welcomed the rulings.
Director John O'Doherty said: "Religious belief cannot be used as a smokescreen for discrimination," adding that service providers must recognise that they may not "pick and choose" which members of the public they want to serve.
The court also ruled on two cases brought by British Christians, who alleged that they had suffered discrimination by refusing to stop wearing a crucifix at work.
ECHR rejected the case of nurse Shirley Chaplin, who was switched to a desk job after she also refused to remove a crucifix, ruling that this was a health and safety issue.
But the court did back the claim by British Airways employee Nadia Eweida, who took the airline to a tribunal after she claimed she was forced out of her job for wearing a cross in breach of company uniform codes.
Her case was rejected in Britain but today European judges found in her favour.
The tribunal panel rejected her claims and decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Director of human rights group Liberty Shami Chakrabarti described the judgment as "an excellent result for equal treatment, religious freedom and common sense."