Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a bakery that refused to make a cake supporting same-sex marriage for a gay customer.
In 2014, Ashers Baking Co. in Northern Ireland refused to make a cake iced with Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie and the phrase “Support Gay Marriage.”
The bakery’s Christian owners argued they shouldn’t be forced to put messages on their products at odds with their religious beliefs, and the top court ruled their refusal to do so was not discriminatory.
“In a nutshell, the objection was to the message and not to any particular person or persons,” Justice Brenda Hale said in the court’s unanimous decision.
“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.
“This conclusion is not in any way to diminish the need to protect gay people and people who support gay marriage from 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 or any of the other protected personal characteristics. But that is not what happened in this case.”
The case was brought by the customer, Gareth Lee, and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
Lee told BBC News the refusal made him “feel like a second class citizen, and the judgement today tells me that’s okay.”
“To me, this was never about conscience or a statement. All I wanted to do was to order a cake in a shop,” he added, added he was concerned about the precedent the ruling sets for the LGBTIQ community.
Ashers bakery’s general manager Daniel McArthur said he was delighted and relieved by the ruling that he said “protects freedom of speech and freedom of conscience for everyone.”
The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland’s largest support organisation for LGBTIQ people, backed the case and said they were disappointed with the decision.
“We believe this is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification,” director John O’Doherty said.
“We will, however, take time to study this judgment by the Supreme Court to understand fully its implications for the rights of LGBT people to access goods, facilities and services without discrimination.”