Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009

Christian loses sex therapy case

A relationship counsellor who refused to offer sex therapy to gay couples has lost his unfair dismissal appeal.

Gary MacFarlane, 47, from Bristol, was sacked by marriage guidance service Relate after he said he could not do anything to promote gay sex.

He alleged Relate had refused to accommodate his Christian beliefs.

The service's chief executive Claire Tyler said: "The appeal judgement validates Relate's commitment to equality of access to our services."

Mr MacFarlane, a former church elder, was appealing on the grounds of religious discrimination at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Bristol.

'Homophobe' label

He started training with Relate in May 2003 and said he enjoyed good relationships with clients and colleagues.

Mr MacFarlane was suspended in October 2007 after meetings with his manager, in which he claimed he was asked to state his views regarding same-sex couples.

After the suspension was lifted he said he was labelled a "homophobe" and, following a further disciplinary hearing, was dismissed on 18 March.

We cannot allow anything to damage our clients, or to undermine the principle of trust that underpins our work
Claire Tyler, Relate

The tribunal, chaired by employment judge Toomer, dismissed Mr MacFarlane's claims of harassment.

Ms Tyler, from Relate, added: "Relate's trusted service, both in Avon and across the country, relies on making sure that all members of society, regardless of their gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or relationship status, are able to access respectful and professional counselling and sex therapy.

"Relate is committed to supporting all religious beliefs working within Relate.

"However, our primary consideration is to our clients who often need complex advice and assistance.

"We cannot allow anything to damage our clients, or to undermine the principle of trust that underpins our work."

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