United Kingdom supreme court backs bakery that refused to make gay wedding cake

Amy and Daniel McArthur owners of the Belfast bakery

Amy and Daniel McArthur owners of the Belfast bakery Credit Eddie Mulholland

The owners of Ashers Baking Company came under fire for refusing an order for a cake from a gay rights activist who wanted them to make a cake saying "Support Gay Marriage".

The U.K. Supreme Court has ruled for a bakery run by evangelical Christians in a "religious freedom" gay cake case similar to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case in the U.S. The judges held it was the message the bakery objected to, not the customer.

"The objection was to the message on the cake, not any personal characteristics of the messenger, or anyone with whom he was associated". A business providing a public service has a legal duty to do so without discrimination based on race, gender, faith and sexuality.

"This conclusion is not in any way to diminish the need to protect gay people and people who support gay marriage from discrimination", she said during today's ruling.

"The ruling does not permit anyone to discriminate against LGBT people". She added that it is "deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity" to deny someone service on the basis of their sexual orientation, but stated "that is not what happened in this case".

"Equality law was never meant to be used in the way the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland tried to use it in this case".

Lee went on to sue the company for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and political beliefs.

"Nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe".

In 2014, the bakery refused to bake a cake embroidered with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage". The cake itself would have cost £36.50.

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The court said the situation was more akin to a Christian printing business being required to print leaflets promoting an atheist message.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the country where same-sex marriage is not allowed.

But, said the Supreme Court, the bakery owners had rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Britain's highest court on Wednesday said a Northern Irish bakery's refusal to make a cake bearing a pro-gay slogan was not discriminatory in a ruling condemned by the customer, a gay rights activist, but hailed by the province's main conservative party.

Lee then bought a similar cake elsewhere, but made a complaint to the Eqality Commission, which chose to support his claim.

Mr Lee, with support from Northern Ireland's Equality Commission, took the Christians to the county court and then at the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal, which sided with the complainant alleging the McArthurs had "unlawfully discriminated".

Daniel McArthur, the general manager of the bakery, said he was relieved by the decision.

The Equality Commission, meanwhile, said it was disappointed and expressed concern about the possible implications: "There is a concern that this judgment may raise uncertainty about the application of equality law in the commercial sphere, both about what businesses can do and what customers may expect", it said in a statement.

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