Ashers bakery loses appeal
The Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled against Ashers Baking Company yesterday. This sad news is a significant blow to freedom of speech.
In this well-known case the McArthur family, who own Ashers, declined to produce a campaign cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” because of their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
The case against them was brought by the taxpayer-funded Northern Ireland Equality Commission.
Judges at the Court of Appeal have decided that the McArthurs discriminated on the grounds of sexual orientation – even though the bakers did not know the customer’s sexual orientation.
Ashers’ legal team is now examining the options for a further appeal.
The ruling shows the coercive nature of same-sex marriage and the problems caused when equality law is used as a weapon against free speech.
National newspapers and commentators have denounced the ruling, with The Telegraph calling it ‘fatuous’ and The Guardian warning “The law should not compel anyone to say things they believe immoral”. Peter Tatchell says it is “authoritarian” and homosexual commentator Neil Midgley wrote “I’m siding with the Christians… Nobody should be forced by law to bake anybody else a cake.”
The outcome could also have implications for other people in business who are asked to promote campaigns or statements which contradict their strongly held personal beliefs. The same logic would require a Muslim printer to print cartoons of Mohammed.
This case underlines the need for a ‘conscience clause’ in law to protect service providers and employees who believe in traditional marriage.