Veteran actor Patrick Stewart has come out in favour of Ashers Bakery which was last month found guilty of discrimination for refusing to write “support gay marriage” on a cake.
The owners of Ashers Bakery in Belfast were last week found guilty of unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation and political or religious grounds.
Last July, Ashers Baking Company – based in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland – refused the request of gay rights activist Gareth Lee for a cake showing the message ‘Support Gay Marriage’ above an image of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie.
Speaking to Evan Davis on BBC’s Newsnight last night, the famed actor discussed his campaign work for human rights.
When asked by Davis about the Ashers Bakery cake, Stewart said it was a “deliciously difficult subject”, going on to say: “Finally I found myself on the side of the bakers.”
Continuing, he said: “It was not because it was a gay couple that they objected, it was not because they were celebrating some sort of marriage or an agreement between them. It was the actual words on the cake they objected to. Because they found the words offensive.
“And I would support their rights to say no, this is personally offensive to my beliefs, I will not do it. But I feel bad that it cost them £600 or whatever…”
The McArthur family, who own the bakery, have since the ruling said they will appeal against it after having sought legal advice.
Benjamin Cohen, the Chief Executive of PinkNews, spoke on BBC Ulster this morning on the Nolan Show, to say: “This is actually a very difficult case. It is difficult with Patrick because he is a big supporter of LGBT rights.
“This was an odd case because it was very unlike others around the world. In this particular incident the judge actually said the refusal also stemmed from the person’s sexuality, and it was that action that broke the law.
“The judge ruled that the refusal most likely wouldn’t have happened, if the people int he shop hadn’t realised the customer was gay.
“The view actually is, particularly given the marriage vote in the Republic of Ireland, is that Northern Ireland is standing out, standing alone, on this issue. The perception of Northern Ireland is that it is against the tide of equality and human rights. I think it’s a shame.”
Simon Calvert of the Christian institute argued: “Of course he’s interesting because he’s like a lot of people who support same-sex marriage”, saying he thinks “what has been done to the McArthur family has gone too far. They should not be legally obliged to help promote [same-sex marriage]. That distinction is what people see.”
Supermarket giant Tesco last week said it was ‘reviewing’ its relationship with Ashers, after the company was found guilty.
Speaking to the media after the ruling, Mr McArthur said the bakery would not close, and that despite the ruling, they did not consider that they had done anything wrong.
“We will not be closing down. We have not done anything wrong”, Mr McArthur said.
Earlier this week, the bakery announced it would begin only making baby and birthday cakes, following the ruling.