Seyi Omooba, The Color Purple actor fired for homophobia, is appealing a tribunal ruling that led to her being ordered to pay £300,000 in court costs.
Extending what has already been a lengthy legal battle, Omooba is contesting her loss in the religious discrimination case she raised following her dismissal from a production of The Color Purple over a homophobic Facebook post.
The 26-year-old sued the theatre and her former agency for her full salary as well as vast sums in damages. She lost and now faces paying £313,195 in court fees.
But Christian Legal Centre, the legal group that represented Omooba, has confirmed that she will appeal against the ruling.
“The tribunal ruled that the theatre and agency had acted for commercial reasons rather than because they intended to discriminate,” Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said.
“The judgment ignores the distinction, well-known in discrimination law, between the discriminatory act and the discriminator’s motives.
“The motives may be entirely benign, but that is no defence.”
Williams added: “The tribunal has effectively joined the campaign of ‘cancelling’ Seyi for her Christian beliefs.
“She and we are not intimidated and we have now lodged an appeal.”
Christian Concern was described by Curve Leicester theatre as using the tribunal process as part of a “wider campaign” that caused “significant human and financial cost” to Curve, it wrote in a statement following the ruling.
Seyi Omooba didn’t realise The Color Purple character is lesbian
Shortly after Seyi Omooba was offered a role in a stage production of The Color Purple, a Facebook post from 2014 was dredged up by Hamilton actor Aaron Lee Lambert that drew concern from theatre chiefs.
“I do not believe you can be born gay,” she wrote in the post, “and I do not believe homosexuality is right, though the law of this land has made it legal it doesn’t make it right.”
Curve Theatre deemed Omooba’s involvement the play, which explores a domestic rape survivor’s healing through her relationship with another woman, as inappropriate.
Her acting agency, Global Artists, dropped her shortly after.
As a result, Omooba sued both the theatre and her former agents. She took the theatre to tribunal over her original £4,309 full salary for the production alongside £25,000 for injury to feelings and reputational damages.
She took aim at Global Artists for £98,752.
As the case hit the London Employment Tribunal, representatives of the theatre argued that if Omooba was kept on for the role, the actor would have left the theatre “high and dry” on opening night.
So, she was dismissed to “save the production”, lawyers said, before adding that her views constituted a “repudiatory breach of contract”.
Omooba’s lawyers attempted to bat away such claims, arguing that Cecile’s sexuality is ambiguous and that Omooba didn’t realise she is a lesbian.
Their argument was undermined when it emerged in hearings that Omooba hadn’t even read the script for The Color Purple.
The employment tribunal dismissed Omooba’s demands for compensation as it said: “There is no financial loss because she would not have played the part.”
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