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U.K. court: man was "wrongly demoted" for anti-gay-marriage Facebook comments

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A U.K. court has ruled that what a man writes on his personal, private Facebook page can’t be dictated by his employer.

When Adrian Smith, of the northwestern English town of Bolton, posted on Facebook that a gay wedding in a church was "equality too far," in 2011, his employer, Tratford Housing Trust, didn’t appreciate the sentiment. Smith was demoted from a manager and his salary dropped by 40%.

Justice Briggs, a High Court judge, ruled Friday that 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.”

In Feb 2011, Smith posted a link to a BBC News story about a gay wedding service, in actuality a civil union, to be held in a British church. "The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women,” he commented under the story. “If the state wants to offer civil marriages to the same sex then that is up to the state; but the state shouldn't impose its rules on places of faith and conscience."

Gay marriage, but not civil partnership, is illegal in the U.K. There’s plenty of support for marriage equality, though. The country is expected to decide on adopting it in 2015’s general elections, and Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted it will legalized then.

Tratford Housing Trust said Smith’s comments violated their social media code of conduct, which had been implemented three months before. Smith’s Facebook profile, while set to private, identified him as a manager at the company. His lawyer argued in court that those comments “weren't intended to be offensive.”

Smith’s victory, though, was almost entirely a moral one. He received only £100 (U.S. $159) in the settlement.

Photo by bloomsberries/Flickr