‘Profound questions raised’: Media responds to Ashers ruling

May 21, 2015

It’s not every day that national newspapers unite in raising concerns about a legal case involving cake. But Tuesday was not an average day.

It was the day when a family were told they had discriminated by acting on their beliefs about marriage.

Ashers Baking Company may have lost in the courts, but with The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express lining up to write sympathetic editorials, and letter pages overflowing with the comments of supportive readers, perhaps they are winning in the court of public opinion.

The Daily Telegraph noted that the case was “more complex” than turning away a customer because of their sexual orientation.

“The bakery owners said their objection was to the slogan they were asked to ice onto the cake: Support Gay marriage”, it commented.

Why, the paper asked, should Ashers “be required to make a statement they do not agree with”?

It went on: “Indeed, should freedom of conscience always be trumped by anti-discrimination rights?”

The paper concluded: “Either a higher court needs to look at this again or Parliament should revisit the law.”

For the Daily Mail the case “raises profound and worrying questions about the balance between gay and religious rights”.

It added: “But the most disturbing question is why the province’s taxpayer-funded Equality Commission chose to pursue this spiteful prosecution, in a case that could so easily have been allowed to blow over with minimum offence to anyone’s feelings.”

The Daily Express, under the headline ‘What a half-baked ruling’, said the result was: “Hardly a victory for common sense or for live-and-let-live.”

It commented: “This ruling proves that in a confrontation between principled Christians and the politically correct it will always be the latter who take precedence.”

For its part the Belfast Telegraph said it was “filled with a sense of unease”.

“The court heard that this was a case of competing human rights, but it does appear that there is a hierarchy of rights as the bakery owners were obliged in law to act against their genuine beliefs”, it observed.

Again and again, newspapers – which don’t wholeheartedly agree with the McArthurs’ overall position – have been making their concerns about the judgment clear.

And while the judge didn’t back them, the McArthurs will be heartened by the support of thousands of supporters of marriage.

Show you’re standing with them by using #SupportAshers on social media.