Gay Priest Told He Can’t Conduct Church Services Sues For Discrimination

Anglican priest Jeremy Pemberton was barred from leading services after he married his husband four years ago.

An gay Anglican priest says after he wed his longtime partner, church leaders forbade him from conducting Mass or other church rituals.

Jeremy Pemberton, a priest with the Church of England for more than 30 years, was stripped of permission to officiate by the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham after he married Laurence Cunnington in April 2014. The ruling, Pemberton says in a lawsuit, left him unable to take a job as a chaplain at a Nottinghamshire hospital.

He named Nottingham’s former bishop, Rev. Richard Inwood, in a 2015 suit alleging anti-gay discrimination. Jurors dismissed his claims, as did an appeals tribunal, but now Pemberton’s appealing to London’s Court of Appeal, arguing that he’s has suffered humiliation and “homophobic harassment.”

Lawyers from the diocese disagree, telling the Nottingham Post Pemberton “was perfectly entitled to remain a member of the Church, to continue to participate in the life of the Church, and indeed to continue to argue for a change in the Church’s position on same-sex marriage.” The ruling, the church claims, only applied to his not being allowed to conduct religious services in the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.

But Pemberton’s attorney, Sean Jones, insists the Church of England does not have a fixed rule on same-sex marriage among clergy, and that priests in civil partnerships that are “effectively indistinguishable” from marriage have been allowed to keep officiating.

Last year, the Church reaffirmed its opposition to marriage equality, but granted clergy more leniency in celebrating same-sex unions. Asked whether priests would be reprimanded for blessing a same-sex marriage, Bishop Pete Broadbent said “individual cases will be treated individually.” But out Christian broadcaster Vicky Beeching has said the policy “requires serious mental and emotional gymnastics to hold together.”

Judges heard arguments in Pemberton’s case on February 8, but their decision has yet to be publicized.

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