January 17, 2019

Supreme Court Rules In Favour Of Bakers In 'Gay Cake' Case

11 October 2018, 04:27 | Glen Norman

Image The cake supporting gay marriage was eventually made by another bakery

David Blevins interviews the bakers at the heart of the Northern Ireland gay cake controversy

The highest court in the United Kingdom has ruled the Christian owners of a bakery did not discriminate against a customer by refusing to make a cake decorated with the words "Support Gay Marriage".

The Supreme Court upheld the owners' appeal against a May decision that found them guilty of discriminating against gay rights activist Gareth Lee.

Joshua Rozenberg, legal commentator, offers his thoughts on the case. "There was no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation".

Ashers Baking Co had been at the heart of a lawsuit brought by LGBT activist Gareth Lee.

"As well as meaning that Asher's can not be legally forced to aid the promotion of same-sex marriage, it also means that gay bakers can not be compelled by law to decorate cakes with anti-gay marriage slogans", Mr Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said.

"The judges gave a clear message today that couldn't be clearer: family businesses like ours are free to focus on giving our customers the best service they can without being forced to promote their campaigns".

According to the district judge who first heard his claim, Mr Lee was perceived by the bakery to be a gay man or someone who was associated with the gay community.

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"It pains me to say this, as a long-time supporter of the struggle for LGBT equality in Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriage and gay blood donors remain banned".

"People of all sexual orientations - gay, straight or bisexual - can and do support gay marriage".

The US supreme court reached a similar conclusion in another bakery case in June when when it ruled in favour of a Colorado baker who had refused to produce a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012.

Lady Hale also ruled that the bakery had not breached the customer's right to protection against discrimination on the grounds of political beliefs.

"The immediate effect of the ruling is to create legal uncertainty with regards to what constitutes discriminatory practice within Northern Ireland".

Mr Lee, backed by the equality commission, later sued the bakery.

Mounting an unsuccessful challenge at the Court of Appeal in Belfast in 2016, Ashers contended that it never had an issue with Lee's sexuality, rather the message he was seeking to put on the cake.

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That means there was no discrimination on that front.

He also said that he is looking at several options, including appealing to the European Court of Human Rights.

Five Supreme Court justices will announce their decision in London on Wednesday.

The Equality Commission might decide to support a different test case.

The bakers appealed the ruling but were again ruled against before they took their fight to the UK's highest court, arguing that in forcing them to act against their religious beliefs, the anti-discrimination judgement risked "extinguishing" their consciences.

The Northern Ireland Equality Commission spent £150,000 (€190,000, $205,000) of public money in backing Lee in the case, while Ashers spent £200,000, covered by The Christian Institute, a charity and lobby group.

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