A Christian man demoted for posting his opposition to gay marriage on Facebook has won his breach of contract action against his employers.
Adrian Smith lost his managerial position, had his salary cut by 40%, and was given a final written warning by Trafford Housing Trust (THT) after writing gay weddings in churches were "an equality too far".
The comments were not visible to the general public, and were posted outside work time, but the trust claimed he broke its code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset fellow workers.
Mr Smith brought breach of contract proceedings, saying the trust acted unlawfully in demoting him.
At London's High Court Mr Justice Briggs ruled in his favour, saying the trust did not have a right to demote Mr Smith as his Facebook postings did not amount to misconduct and was a breach of contract.
Justice Briggs concluded: "Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong, suspended and subjected to a disciplinary procedure which wrongly found him guilty of gross misconduct.
"(He was) then demoted to a non-managerial post with an eventual 40% reduction in salary. The breach of contract which the Trust thereby committed was serious and repudiatory."
Mr Smith said in a statement: "I'm pleased to have won my case for breach of contract today. The judge exonerated me and made clear that my comments about marriage were in no way 'misconduct'.
"Britain is a free country where people have freedom of speech, and I am pleased that the judge's ruling underlines that important principle.
"But this sad case should never have got this far. Long ago, Trafford Housing Trust should have held their hands up and admitted they made a terrible mistake.
"Had they done this then my life would not have been turned upside down and my family and I would not have had to endure a living nightmare."
The Christian Institute, the group that paid for Mr Smith's legal case, welcomed the ruling.
Spokesman Mike Judge said: "This is a good day for free speech. But would Adrian have won his case if marriage had already been redefined? I don't think so. The Government should stop playing politics with marriage, because it's ordinary people like Adrian who'll get it in the neck."
Matthew Gardiner, chief executive at Trafford Housing Trust said: "We fully accept the court's decision and I have made a full and sincere apology to Adrian.
"At the time we believed we were taking the appropriate action following discussions with our employment solicitors and taking into account his previous disciplinary record.
"This case has highlighted the challenges that businesses face with the increased use of social media and we have reviewed our documentation and procedures to avoid a similar situation arising in the future. Adrian remains employed by the Trust and I am pleased this matter has now concluded."