The rejected cake design
Veteran British LGBT activist Peter Tatchell has condemned a verdict against a bakery that refused to make a pro-gay marriage cake as a blow to freedom of expression.
On Monday, the Court of Appeal in Belfast upheld last year’s judgement fining Ashers Bakery for discrimination after the christian owners, Colin and Karen McArthur, rejected a request by a gay man to produce a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”.
The cake was to also feature the characters of Bert and Ernie from the television show Sesame Street to celebrate the 2014 International Day Against Homophobia.
The couple were found guilty of contravening Northern Ireland’s Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations and fined £500 in compensation, to be paid to the customer, Gareth Lee.
Tatchell, however, argues that that the McArthurs did not discriminate against Lee because he is gay, but because they objected to the message he wanted on the cake.
“Although I strongly disagree with Ashers opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be compelled to facilitate a political idea that they oppose,” said Tatchell in a statement.
He argued that while “discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and is rightly unlawful… people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with”.
In the ruling, Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, rejected the McArthurs’ claim that by baking the cake they would have been seen to be endorsing same-sex marriage, which goes against their religious views.
“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,” Morgan pointed out.
The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland’s largest LGBT support organisation, welcomed the Court of Appeal judgement, stating that, “The judgement clearly articulated that this is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification.”