European Court Throws Out Same-Sex Marriage Cake Case

Jan 14, 2022

Good news – the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against an activist who took Ashers bakery to court for refusing to bake him a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”.

The activist, Gareth Lee, said he had been discriminated against on grounds of his sexual orientation and political beliefs and started legal action in 2014. Ashers said the slogan was contrary to their Christian belief in real marriage and argued they may not be compelled to express something with which they disagree.

Mr Lee won his original case and the subsequent appeal in the UK courts, but in 2018 the UK Supreme Court overturned those rulings and found in favour of the bakery.

Mr Lee then took his case to the European Court of Human Rights, but in their ruling this week the judges said the case was inadmissible because Mr Lee had not “at any point in the domestic proceedings” made his argument by invoking his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. This meant he had “failed to exhaust domestic remedies”, making the application inadmissible.

Mr Lee said his case had been dismissed on a “technicality”, but in fact the judges hinted the case would also fail on its merits, writing in their ruling that “it is not self-evident that the facts of the present case – in which the applicant complains only about the judgment of the Supreme Court – fall within the ambit of Article 8, 9 or 10 of the Convention”.

The outcome has been welcomed by many observers – including Christian organisation the Evangelical Alliance and LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell – for confirming that compelled speech is contrary to a person’s human rights.

At C4M we welcome it too. At a time when pressure to conform to new norms on marriage and other issues has rarely been stronger, it is reassuring that those of us who believe in real marriage, like everyone else, are protected by law against being compelled to express things we disagree with.