Facebook gay wedding comment man wins demotion case
- 16 November 2012
- From the section Manchester
A Christian who was demoted in his job for a comment he wrote on Facebook about gay marriages has won a breach of contract action against his employers.
Adrian Smith, 55, lost his managerial position and had a 40% salary cut after saying a gay wedding held in a church was an "equality too far".
Mr Smith, from Bolton, claimed that Trafford Housing Trust (THT) acted unlawfully in demoting him.
He also alleged that the trust had breached his human rights.
Disciplinary action was launched against Mr Smith after he posted the comment next to a BBC News Online story, written in February 2011, with the headline, "Gay church 'marriage' set to get the go-ahead".
In a statement after the hearing at London's High Court he said: "Something has poisoned the atmosphere in Britain, where an honest man like me can be punished for making perfectly polite remarks about the importance of marriage.
"I have won today. But what will tomorrow bring?
"I am fearful that, if marriage is redefined, there will be more cases like mine - and if the law of marriage changes people like me may not win in court."
He added: "Does the Prime Minister want to create a society where people like me, people who believe in traditional marriage, are treated as outcasts?"
Mr Smith's damages payout was limited to £100 because of legal technicalities.
He said: "I didn't do this for the money - I did this because there is an important principle at stake."
The father-of-two's Facebook comments were not visible to the general public, and were posted outside work time, but the trust argued he broke its code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset co-workers.
High Court judge Mr Justice Briggs said: "Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong, suspended and subjected to a disciplinary procedure which wrongly found him guilty of gross misconduct, and then demoted to a non-managerial post with an eventual 40% reduction in salary.
"The breach of contract which the Trust thereby committed was serious and repudiatory."
Matthew Gardiner, chief executive of Trafford Housing Trust, said it accepted the court's verdict and the trust had been defending its social media policy.
Shortly after Mr Smith's demotion Peter Tatchell, a prominent campaigner on gay and lesbian issues, described the trust's actions as "excessive".