Ashers Baking Company, based in County Antrim, Northern Ireland was taken to court in 2014 by a gay rights activist, assisted by Northern Ireland’s tax payer funded Equality Commission.
Gay activist Gareth Lee had specified the motto for an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia. Same-sex marriage is not legally recognised in Northern Ireland as it has been defeated by the DUP who oppose it.
His complaint was that the Bakery refusing to make the cake made him “feel I’m not worthy, and a lesser person” and to him he felt that was wrong” so he sued them for £500.
A judge ruled that Asher’s refusal to make the cake was discriminatory and that the bakery discriminated against Mr Lee on the grounds of his sexuality. Ashers further lost an appeal against that judgement.
Delivering judgment in the court of appeal on the Ashers case in 2016, Northern Ireland’s lord chief justice, Sir Declan Morgan, said: “The supplier may provide the particular service to all or to none but not to a selection of customers based on prohibited grounds.
“In the present case, the appellants might elect not to provide a service that involves any religious or political message. What they may not do is provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation.”
Lee’s order occurred shortly after the DUP used its power of veto in the Northern Ireland assembly to block moves to make same-sex marriage legal in the province. So being that Gay marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland, one wonders how refusing to promote something that was not legal could itself be illegal.
If Ashers had refused to serve Gareth Lee because he was gay then that would have been a clear act of discrimination and the bakery’s owners would, rightly, deserve to be prosecuted and fined. But they didn’t, they refused due to the political message he wanted them to out on it. Thy have said they would have made the cake, but not put the iced messaged on.
At an earlier hearing in a county court, Daniel McArthur, general manager of Ashers Baking Company, explained why the family-run firm turned down Lee’s request for the cake.
“We happily serve everyone but we cannot promote a cause that goes against what the Bible says about marriage. We have tried to be guided in our actions by our Christian beliefs,” he said.
Daniel also said the case had “always been about the message”. “We didn’t say no because of the customer; we had served him before, we’d serve him again. It was because of the message. “Some people want the law to make us support something with which we disagree.”
This week the Supreme Court will hear the case on Tuesday and Wednesday during its first-ever hearings in Northern Ireland. Five supreme court justices will hear the appeal in Belfast: the president, Lady Hale, the deputy president, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Hodge and Lady Black.
It is expected that the Supreme Court will hear arguments from Attorney General John Larkin QC, who has questioned the validity of the laws used against the company.
The hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice will be open to the public and will also be streamed live.
No one should be forced to make something to promote something that they disagree with, this should be their fundamental right. Any business should have a right to choose whom it does business with.
This case raises very important questions about whether, businesses, groups, institutions or even individuals can be – or should be – forced and bullied to accept prevailing political ideas or to make items to promote political messages and if they don’t they are hauled to court.
I myself fully support any private business that isn’t publicly funded or publicly owned to make its own decisions on who it wants as its customers or clients and to choose for example if it wants to make a certain type of cake,
If the Bakery had served Mr Lee before and said it would again, surely this makes this case a political one rather than a personal than one about personal feelings ?
The LGBT continually say they we gays shouldn’t be bullied, I agree, but with that, they gays shouldn’t bully others for simply saying what they feel or believe, or for not wanting to do something they don’t feel comfortable doing. We have free speech, which should be whatever anyone wants to say.
Forcing someone to have an opinion that goes against their will is itself a form of extremism