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 Northern Ireland Equality Commission brought the case in 2014 against Ashers Bakery on behalf of Queer Space activist Gareth Lee who had requested a cake featuring Sesame Street muppets Bert and Ernie for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia. The cake was to display the message “support gay marriage.”
The Guardian reports: ‘In a unanimous decision, the UK’s highest court found in favour of an appeal by Ashers, which had refused to produce the cake in 2014 for Gareth Lee, who supports the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. The judgment, delivered after the supreme court’s first hearing in Northern Ireland in May, reverses earlier decisions in Belfast county court and a court of appeal ruling that the company discriminated against Lee, who is gay, on the grounds of sexual orientation. The five justices on the supreme court – Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Hodge and Lady Black – found the bakery did not refuse to fulfil Lee’s order because of his sexual orientation and therefore there was no discrimination on those grounds. The business relationship between Lee and Ashers did not involve people being refused jobs or services because of their religious faith, the judges added.’
Daniel and Amy McArthur, owners of the anti-gay bakery, spoke with the press following the ruling:
Said Hale in her judgment: “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 and it does the project of equal treatment no favours to seek to extend it beyond its proper scope. This court has held that ‘nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe…The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage, but that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed.”