‘Gay cake’ row bakers say complainant will ‘always be welcome in our shops’
Ashers Bakery Company has said it is “delighted and relieved” after the Supreme Court ruled the firm was not guilty of discrimination in refusing to bake a pro-gay marriage cake.
The bakery owners Daniel and Amy McArthur said the complainant, Gareth Lee, will “always be welcome in any of our shops”.
The decision was read on Wednesday (October 10) in London, four years after Lee, an LGBT activist with Queer Space, paid the Northern Ireland-based bakery to make a cake to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
The Christian-run Ashers Baking Company, owned by the McArthur family, said they were unable to make the ‘Support Gay Marriage’ cake citing religious values.
“The bakers’ objection was to the message and not to the man,” President of the Supreme Court Lady Hale said, reading the judgement.
The ruling considered the claim of discrimination on three grounds—sexual orientation, political beliefs, and impact of European Convention of Human Rights—and found that the bakery was within its right to refuse Lee.
“It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person’s race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any of the other protected personal characteristics. But that is not what happened in this case,” Lady Hale said.
In its judgement, the court also referenced the US Supreme Court decision in the Masterpiece Bakery case, which cleared the baker of refusing to serve a gay couple.
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The British court noted the differences in the two cases, writing: “The bakery would have refused to supply this particular cake to anyone, whatever their personal characteristics.”
“So there was no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. If and to the extent that there was discrimination on grounds of political opinion, no justification has been shown for the compelled speech which would be entailed for imposing civil liability for refusing to fulfil the order,” the court added.
In response to the Supreme Court ruling, a Stonewall spokesperson said: “The Supreme Court’s decision that Ashers bakery were not discriminatory in the so-called ‘gay cake’ row is very concerning for anyone who cares about equality. We will take time to review the judgement in detail.
“It is illegal for providers of goods, facilities and services in the UK to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender reassignment.
“The Court is saying the right of freedom of expression in effect allows people to discriminate against others based on who they are. This sets a hugely dangerous precedent which could be used by others to justify even more discrimination at a time when LGBT people still face exclusion, abuse and discrimination every day, despite that being against the law.
“This is a backward step for equality which needs to be urgently addressed.”