Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Ashers Bakery and the "Gay Cake"


Judgment has been delivered in the Northern Ireland case of  Lee v Ashers Baking Company [2015] NICty 2 (Court summary HERE).  The case considered whether it was illegal for Ashers to refuse to bake a cake which carried a logo saying "support gay marriage" along with a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, and the logo of the organisation  'Queerspace'.  More background facts available HERE and a picture below of what Mr Lee wanted putting on the cake

Unlike many similar cases which involved Bakeries refusing to make a cake for a Same-Sex Marriage reception this case involved a Bakery being asked to bake a cake which explicitly endorsed the campaign to legalise Same-Sex Marriage in Northern Ireland.  The Company was run by a family who are devout Christians and who believe that Marriage is between a Man and a Woman

The case revolved around 2 separate legal issues namely whether the refusal to make the cake constituted Discrimination on the grounds of Sexual Orientation contrary to the  Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 and whether it constituted unlawful discrimination on the grounds of Political Opinion contrary to the  Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998.

Northern Ireland is unique in the UK for in making discrimination on the grounds of political opinion explicitly unlawful and this arises from the long history of sectarian division in Northern Ireland where religion, nationality and political opinion were so often synonymous with British/Unionist/Protestant identity facing Irish/Republican/Catholic identity.

Surprisingly in this case the Judge held that the refusal of Ashers to bake the cake constituted direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation simply on the basis that the buyer, a Mr Lee, happened to be Gay even though many supporters of Gay Marriage are heterosexual and similarly many Gay people are opposed to Gay Marriage.  As is usual in these cases the Judge paid lip service to the Ashers rights to Religious Freedom under Article 9 and then stated that the law overode those rights

Somewhat less surprisingly the Judge also decided that the refusal constituted discrimination on the grounds of political opinion.  Damages were assessed as a nominal figure of £500.

The case will undoubtedly be appealed but what does emerge from it is the complete intolerance of the "Equality" industry and the way in which Equality Law is being used to destroy individual freedom including the freedom of a Bakery company to decide what products it wants to make.  

We in Britain have just been celebrating the 70th anniversary of our victory in WW2 but frankly what are we celebrating ?, 'Freedom', but not if you run a Bakery it would seem.