Huge Victory for Christian Bakers' Religious Rights at UK's Highest Court

Elias Hubbard
October 11, 2018

Wednesday's ruling reversed an earlier decision made in a Belfast County court that Ashers had discriminated against Lee on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Joshua Rozenberg, legal commentator, offers his thoughts on the case.

"This matter has also damaged community relations with vested interests attempting to portray it as a battle between those of faith versus those of differing sexual orientation".

But, as Lady Hale explained, that was not what happened to Gareth Lee.

"The less favourable treatment was afforded to the message not to the man". The cake was to display the message "support gay marriage". "Their objection was to the message on the cake, not to the personal characteristics of Mr Lee", the judges added.

Reacting to the judgment, John O'Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project said: "We are disappointed by this judgment".

"People of all sexual orientations - gay, straight or bisexual - can and do support gay marriage".

"The objection was to being required to promote the message on the cake", said Brenda Hale, President of the Supreme Court, adding that the conclusion would not in any way diminish the need to protect gay people and people who support gay marriage.

"The immediate effect of the ruling is to create legal uncertainty with regards to what constitutes discriminatory practice within Northern Ireland". The LGBT activist retaliated by filing a complaint with the United Kingdom's Equality Commission for Northern Ireland - despite getting the order fulfilled at another bakery.

The Supreme Court judges have overturned previous court judgements which stated Ashers was unlawful.

This was not giving religious rights to a company, Lady Hale said; it was upholding the human rights of its owners.

Their victory in the Supreme Court means that printers and manufacturers will not be required to produce material that they find offensive - provided that they do not discriminate against customers on grounds such as race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief.

Lee said he would be considering his options which could involve appealing to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.

Today, the Supreme Court found in favour of the bakery.

For instance, MP Ian Paisley Jr. of the Democratic Union Party said on Twitter Tuesday, "After such a decisive finding by the Supreme Court, the equality commissions immediate response has been to threaten to waste more public money on this case".

The UK's Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, acting on behalf of Gareth Lee, wrote to the bakery demanding compensation for the customer and then took the business to court.

The long-running case over what has been dubbed "the most expensive cake in United Kingdom history", was supported by Northern Ireland's Equality Commission, which argued that refusing to bake the cake was an unlawful act of discrimination against the customer, a gay man who supports a campaign for Northern Ireland to end its ban on same-sex marriage. The high court agreed with the owners.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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