The Christian bakery Ashers needs no introduction in the LGBT space, they quickly gained notoriety after they refused to bake a cake supporting gay marriage.
As you may know, their court case actually reached a ruling some time ago, and it was ruled that their refusal to do so was discriminatory. The owners of the Northern Ireland bakery appealed this ruling, and they have once again lost.
This all began two years ago, when gay rights activist Gareth Lee asked the Ashers bakery to bake a cake with the message “support gay marriage”, which was refused. The firm argued that this message was against their religious beliefs.
Daniel McArthur, one of the owners of the family-run business, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the appeal ruling. According to him it undermined “democratic freedom, religious freedom and free speech”. (Psst, freedom of speech is not freedom to discriminate and is also not freedom from consequences)
“If equality law means people can be punished for politely refusing to support other people’s causes then equality law needs to change,” he said. “We had served Mr Lee before and we would be happy to serve him again. The judges accepted that we did not know that Mr Lee was gay and that he was not the reason we declined the order. We have always said it was not about the customer, it was about the message.”
However, the three judges said that it didn’t follow that icing a message meant you supported it, meaning of course that such a message could not be against their religious beliefs.
In their ruling, they said: “The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either.”
The judges also said that bakery wouldn’t have objected to a cake with the message: “Support Heterosexual Marriage” or indeed “Support Marriage”.
“We accept that it was the use of the word ‘gay’ in the context of the message which prevented the order from being fulfilled,” the judges said. “The reason that the order was cancelled was that the appellants would not provide a cake with a message supporting a right to marry for those of a particular sexual orientation.”
“This was a case of association with the gay and bisexual community and the protected personal characteristic was the sexual orientation of that community. Accordingly this was direct discrimination.”
Gareth Lee, the person who tried to order the cake, spoke publicly about the case, said he was “relieved” and “grateful to the appeal court judges.”
Michael Wardlow of the Equality Commission also chimed in on this appeal ruling, saying that the case was extremely significant as it clarified the law.
“The reason that we’ve got law is to protect people so we can all receive the same treatment. The judgement today was very clear. It said unequivocally, faith is important, but faith cannot set aside equality legislation that has been long fought.”