Bak­ery not guilty in gay cake case

Cyprus Today - - UK -

BRI­TAIN’S high­est court on Wed­nes­day said a North­ern Ir­ish bak­ery’s re­fusal to make a cake bear­ing a pro-gay slo­gan was not dis­crim­i­na­tory in a rul­ing con­demned by the cus­tomer, a gay rights ac­tivist, but hailed by the prov­ince’s main con­ser­va­tive party.

Ash­ers Bak­ing in Belfast was found guilty of dis­crim­i­na­tion in 2015 for re­fus­ing to make a cake for a cus­tomer iced with the words “Sup­port Gay Mar­riage” be­cause of the own­ers’ Chris­tian be­liefs.

It failed in an ap­peal to the lo­cal courts in 2016 but the Supreme Court, the UK’s high­est ju­di­cial body, over­turned that de­ci­sion on Wed­nes­day, say­ing the bak­ers’ ob­jec­tion was to the mes­sage on the cake, not to any per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the mes­sen­ger, or any­one with whom he was as­so­ci­ated.

“The ob­jec­tion was to be­ing re­quired to pro­mote the mes­sage on the cake,” said Brenda Hale, Pres­i­dent of the Supreme Court, adding that the con­clu­sion would not in any way di­min­ish the need to pro­tect gay peo­ple and peo­ple who sup­port gay mar­riage.

“The less favourable treat­ment was af­forded to the mes­sage not to the man. It was not as if he were be­ing re­fused a job, or ac­com­mo­da­tion, or baked goods in gen­eral, be­cause of his po­lit­i­cal opin­ion. The ev­i­dence was that they were quite pre­pared to serve him in other ways.”

The court said the sit­u­a­tion was more akin to a Chris­tian print­ing busi­ness be­ing re­quired to print leaflets pro­mot­ing an athe­ist mes­sage.

Gareth Lee, a gay rights ac­tivist who had or­dered the cake, said in re­ac­tion to Wed­nes­day’s rul­ing that he was a “a sec­ond class cit­i­zen” in North­ern Ire­land, the only part of the United King­dom where same-sex mar­riage is not al­lowed.

“In North­ern Ire­land, I’m a sec­ond class cit­i­zen and that’s un­for­tu­nate. We don’t have the same rights in North­ern Ire­land as gay peo­ple as we do in the rest of the United King­dom,” he said.

The prov­ince’s Equal­ity Com­mis­sion, which backed Mr Lee’s case, said it was dis­ap­pointed with the judg­ment and the im­pli­ca­tions that the be­liefs of busi­ness own­ers may take prece­dence over a cus­tomer’s equal­ity rights.

But the rul­ing was hailed by the so­cially con­ser­va­tive Demo­cratic Union­ist Party (DUP), the prov­ince’s largest party that props up Bri­tain’s mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment and has blocked at­tempts to le­galise gay mar­riage in the prov­ince.

“The Ash­ers rul­ing is an his­toric and sem­i­nal judg­ment. This now pro­vides clar­ity for peo­ple of all faiths and none,” DUP leader Ar­lene Fos­ter said on Twit­ter.

Daniel McArthur, who owns the bak­ery with his wife Amy, said the rul­ing pro­tected free­dom of speech and free­dom of con­science for ev­ery­one.

“We al­ways knew we hadn’t done any­thing wrong in turn­ing down this or­der,” he told re­porters out­side the court.

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