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Court of Appeal puts TfL ex-gay poster ban in doubt

A Christian charity fighting a ban on a London bus advert suggesting gay people can be helped to "move out of homosexuality" has won an important ruling at the Court of Appeal.

Three appeal court judges have ruled there must be a further investigation to reconsider whether London Mayor Boris Johnson had acted "for an improper purpose" over his decision to ban the posters. A legal action, brought by the Core Issues Trust charity, which has already failed in the High Court, accuses Johnson of unlawfully using his position as chairman of Transport for London (TfL) to obtain the ban of the Christian ad to secure the gay vote and advance his 2012 re-election campaign.

The Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, sitting with Lord Justice Briggs and Lord Justice Christopher Clarke, declared:

"It is not possible to reach a conclusion on the question whether TfL's decision not to allow the Trust's advertisement was unlawful on the grounds that it was instructed by the mayor or made for an improper purpose.

"I would, therefore, remit the case for the judge (Mrs Justice Lang) to reconsider this question in the light of fresh evidence and in the light of any further material that emerges as a result of the directions that she may give."

Lord Dyson said that if after reconsideration "the judge decides that the decision was not instructed by the mayor and not made for an improper purpose, then her decision (upholding the ban) will stand".

The Court of Appeal ruling effectively means if the judge decides that the decision was instructed by the mayor or made for an improper purpose, "then the decision must be quashed".

A defiant response from Boris Johnson's office welcomed the ruling, saying:

"The Mayor is pleased TfL's original decision to ban the Core Issues Trust advert has been upheld by the Court of Appeal.

"He agreed with TfL's ban at the time and will continue to support the banning of adverts that breach advertising policy and cause widespread public offence, as this advert clearly did."

But the Christian Legal Centre and the Core Issues Trust hailed the Court of Appeal's decision a "significant victory", pointing to questions over the mayor's involvement. Spokesman Mike Davidson told Premier's Marcus Jones on the News Hour why he thinks the ruling is so important:

The ad posters designed for the sides of the capital's buses read: "Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!" – implying that some people could be helped to change their sexuality.

The posters were a response to a bus poster campaign by the gay rights group Stonewall, which carried the message: "Some people are gay. Get over it!"

The Christian charity has accused gay and lesbian rights activists of seeking to be the new "moral enforcers" and say it is Christian religious conservatives who now need protection for their right to express dissent against "the new orthodoxy". Johnson had said the Core Issues advert was "offensive to gays" and could lead to retaliation against the wider Christian community.

Last March, the high court judge, Mrs Justice Lang, ruled that the ban was legal. Core Issues Trust lawyers has now written to the Mayor of London demanding that he now makes all email access, current and potentially deleted, available to them.

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