Janet Daby resigned this morning as Labour’s shadow faith minister after making “misjudged” comments about registrars having the right to refuse to certify same-sex partnerships.
Announcing her decision, Daby tweeted: “I’m proud to support same-sex marriages. On Saturday Labour celebrated 15 years of civil partnerships, and all the progress we’ve made since.”
In a post that was not widely noticed at the time, she added: “I sincerely apologise for my misjudged comments on Friday, and have decided to resign as shadow faith minister.”
A Labour spokesperson said: “Janet Daby has today stood down from her role as a shadow minister. We will appoint a replacement in due course.”
The Telegraph reported on Saturday that Daby had argued there should be a conscience clause to protect people of faith being penalised for objecting to performing certain tasks for religious reasons.
The Labour MP for Lewisham East and former opposition frontbencher said: “There needs to be something in place that protects people of faith as well as those who think the other way.
“It is an issue of conscience. It is like people having a choice who for reasons of conscience cannot participate in conducting an abortion.”
Asked about the issue during a Zoom briefing for the Religion Media Centre, Daby replied: “This is to do with a person’s own conscience really around this. It’s similar, probably, to a vote of conscience in parliament.
“My own view around this would be that I’d like to have some more information on it, obviously, I’d like to have those conversations with people.”
According to Sky News, she added: “It’s almost similar, as well, to whether someone wishes to partake in the medical process of an abortion – I think nurses have a choice. This is highly complex and controversial.
“What I think is there needs to be something in place that respects people’s conscience and views of faith, as well as that protects people’s rights that want to ensure they can also be treated equally within their own rights as well.”
Registrars cannot legally refuse to perform same-sex weddings due to their faith, according to equalities law, which has been confirmed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The EHRC has said that “when someone is providing a public service, they cannot, because of their religion or belief, discriminate unlawfully against customers or service users”.
Daby’s office said: “Janet’s comments were made in consideration of a person of faith asking the question, but do not reflect her views – she is fully supportive of equal marriage, and believes registrars should not be in the role if they do not want to conduct same-sex weddings.”