Bakery Loses Appeal Over 'Gay Cake' Row

Illustration Mary Galloway.
When a Christian-run bakery refused to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan in 2014, it triggered a heated debate: do businesses have a right to provide a service only to people who share their religious beliefs?

According to appeal court judges speaking this morning, the answer is no.

Ashers bakery in Belfast, Northern Ireland, turned down an order from a gay rights activist to make a cake featuring the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie and the logo of a campaign group called "Queerspace". Ironically, it was intended to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

However, the bakery turned down the order, saying it was taking "a stand" because marriage is still defined in the country "as being a union between one man and one woman". They said, therefore, that the "order was at odds with our beliefs", the BBC reported at the time.

Gareth Lee, the gay rights activist who made the order, took the bakery to court last year, with support from the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland. The judge ruled in Lee's favour, saying the bakery wasn't exempt from discrimination law and ordered it to pay Lee £500 in compensation.

Ashers remained firm in its stance, however, with the firm's general manager saying it was "extremely disappointed" by the ruling. The company then appealed against it.

The long-awaited appeal judgement was delivered this morning and upheld the original court's decision, ruling that Ashers' refusal to make the cake was discriminatory, reported the BBC.

In their ruling, the three judges said icing a cake doesn't necessarily mean you supported gay marriage. "The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either."

The judges added that Ashers' refusal to use the word 'gay' in the context of marriage amounted to direct discrimination, as the bakers wouldn't have refused to write "Support Heterosexual Marriage" or "Support Marriage" on a cake.

Lee said he was "relieved" and "grateful to the appeal court judges".

Let's hope this settles the issue once and for all. If you're a business serving the public, it's your legal duty not to discriminate against your customers.

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