|Ashers of Belfast. Guilty of religiously-inspired homophobic discrimination.|
Source: BBC Northern Ireland
In a victory for basic human rights over Christian bigotry, the Court of Appeal has ruled that a Northern Ireland baker was wrong to refuse to make and decorate a cake for a gay campaign to legalise same-sex marriage because they disagreed with their life-style. The cake was to bear the slogan 'Support gay marriage".
Ashers, a family firm of Belfast, initially accepted the order from gay rights activist, Gareth Lee, but then declined it on the grounds that it went against their religious belief. The cake had been ordered for a private party to celebrate the end of Northern Ireland Anti-homophobic Week.
The three judges sitting in the Court of Appeal ruled that the bakers were not allowed to provide a service only to people who agreed with their religious beliefs. To do so "had directly discriminated against Gareth Lee on grounds of sexual orientation" and was incompatible with Articles 9, 10 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The essential part of the ruling was:
The benefit from the message or slogan on the cake could only accrue to gay or bisexual people. The appellants would not have objected to a cake carrying 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 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...
It was not suggested that there was any approbation of the message on the face of the cake and the trial judge concluded that what the respondent wanted did not require them to promote or support gay marriage. There is no challenge to that conclusion directly in the questions before us and in any event we consider that the conclusion was undoubtedly correct. 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.
We conclude that there is nothing in this case arising under Article 10 ECHR which does not already arise under Article 9. The essence of the complaint under the latter Article is the requirement to provide a message with which the appellant disagreed because of their deeply held religious beliefs. In the commercial sphere that is what the absence of direct discrimination can require, depending on the offer.
|Daniel McArthur of Ashers, with his wife Amy.|
Source: BBC Northern Ireland
This confirms the Supreme Court ruling 2013, in the case of Bull v Hall, that the Christian owners of a guest house were wrong to deny accommodation to a homosexual couple on the grounds that their faith was opposed to homosexuality.
In a seeming inability to accept or understand the ruling, Daniel McArthur from Ashers said he was:
...extremely disappointed. [It undermined] democratic freedom, religious freedom and free speech. If equality law means people can be punished for politely refusing to support other people's causes then equality law needs to change... 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.
But the judges had been quite specific that decorating a cake did not indicate any support for the message, so the law was not forcing the bakers to give support for something that went against their religious beliefs.
Christians are simply going to have to learn to live with the fact that the Human Rights Act has effectively taken away their privilege to discriminate and demand inequality of treatment for those with whom they disagree. The assumed right to discriminate against others does not override the rights of those whom they wish to victimise.
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