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A bakery run by a Christian family in Northern Ireland won a landmark case in Britain’s highest court over its refusal to make a cake decorated with the words “Support Gay Marriage” – reported News.com.au (Australia).
The Supreme Court upheld the owners’ appeal against a May decision that found them guilty of discriminating against gay rights activist Gareth Lee.
The bakery called the ruling a momentous day for religious freedom in Britain while Lee condemned it as a profound blow for civil rights.
“I paid my money, my money was taken and then a few days later it was refused. That made me feel like a second-class citizen,” he told reporters after listening to the verdict.
“I’m concerned not just for the implications for myself and other gay people, but for every single one of us.”
The case pitted Northern Ireland’s strong Protestant and Catholic communities against LGBT groups testing the breadth of the UK province’s anti-discrimination laws.
Wednesday’s ruling explained that the bakery’s “objection was to the message on the cake, not any personal characteristics of the messenger, or anyone with whom he was associated.”
The top of the cake would have also had a picture of the bedroom-sharing Bert and Ernie characters from US children’s show Sesame Street.
Ashers Baking Company — a business with 80 employees across Britain which takes its name from an Old Testament figure — took the order but declined to make the cake in 2014.
The case came as marriage between same-sex couples has become increasingly accepted across Europe and the West as a whole.
Fifteen countries — including Britain — have allowed gay and lesbian partners to marry since the Netherlands became the first in 2001.
But British-ruled Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK not covered by the same-sex marriage law. The chief judge on Britain’s Supreme Court said the ruling should not be read as condoning discrimination.
“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, religion or belief,” judge Brenda Hale said.
“But that is not what happened in this case.”
ICING VS CAKE
Lee ordered the cake in Belfast for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia.
The bakery accepted both the order and payment.
It then called back two days later to explain that it could not top the cake with the icing featuring the Muppets and the marriage slogan.
The bakery argued that it opposed the political message requested by Mr Lee rather than his sexual orientation.
Justice Hale said the law supported this logic.
“The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage,” she said.
“But that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed.”
Justice Hale explained that the law should not “compel” the bakers to violate their religious beliefs and endorse gay marriage.
Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur called the ruling a victory for people trying to live in accordance with their religion.
“We always knew we hadn’t done anything wrong in turning down this order,” he said.
“This ruling protects freedom of speech and freedom of conscience for everyone.”
The justification in the British Supreme Court’s ruling is different from one used by its US counterpart which cleared a Colorado baker of discrimination in June.
That decision found that the civil rights group suing the baker showed animus by targeting him based on his religious beliefs.
Five Supreme Court justices allowed a challenge by the McArthur family in a unanimous ruling in London on Wednesday in what has become widely known as the “gay cake case”.
The legal action was originally brought against family-run Ashers bakery in Belfast by gay rights activist Gareth Lee, who won his case initially in the county court and then at the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.
Announcing Wednesday’s decision, Justice Hale, said: “This conclusion is not in any way to diminish the need to protect gay people and people who support gay marriage from discrimination.”
The court also said Lee had no claim against Ashers on the grounds of religious belief or political opinion.
Justice Hale said: “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.”
show source https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/gay-marriage/bakery-wins-landmark-gay-cake-case/news-story/a5e86d22a70b3af13ad35454b5395448