A magistrate who refused to rule on cases involving the possible adoption of children by homosexual couples has been suspended, and has now taken the government to an employment tribunal:
“Andrew McClintock, 63, stood down from a family courts panel in Sheffield after he was refused permission to opt out of cases that could result in children being placed with same-sex parents.
The father of four argued that new laws extending homosexual rights were in conflict with his religious beliefs and his duty to put the welfare of the child first.”
I disagree strongly with his views, but I also believe that he should be free to hold them. The question in this case is whether or not a magistrate/judge should be allowed to refuse to preside over cases where his or her views conflict with the law. Judges and magistrates, like the police, are there to enforce the law, not to decide whether or not the law is worth enforcing. That is not to say that no law is unjust, merely that it is Parliamentâ€™s job to amend or scrape laws, not the judges’.
Mr. McClintockâ€™s request to be allowed to rule on other cases instead seems at first quite reasonable, but do we really want our magistrates picking and choosing what cases suit them? If we go down the other route though and allow no leeway to magistrates, what are we then saying? Should doctors be forced to perform abortions? When morality and the law collide, which one should come out on top?
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