Once Wasn’t enough for the LGBTI Lobby: Bakery Targeted Again

Marriage-Alliance-Australia-Bakery-LGBT-Lobby.jpg“Live and let live” apparently is impossible for the LGBTI lobby: a bakery in Ireland was fined for refusing to create a cake endorsing same-sex marriage has again come under fire, thanks to same-sex marriage activists targeting them for demise once more.

In late 2016, Ashers Baking Company was fined for refusing to bake a cake which featured Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie and the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”. The incident garnered national attention, as it pitted the freedom of the bakers to decline to use their artistic talents to promote a message with which they disagree against the government’s ground to force business transactions. 

It seems that another same-sex marriage advocate decided it was time to once again target Ashers Bakery. Grainne McCann, a woman from Northern Ireland who currently resides in London, said she made an order at Ashers Baking Company, again involving a message endorsing same-sex marriage:

“The wording we requested was ‘Gay marriage rocks! Happy engagement, Andy and Joe! Lots of love xxx’.“We were thrilled when Ashers accepted our online order, and full payment of £23.40 plus £20 post and packing, but the next day they sent the cancellation note and a refund,” McCann said.

Last year, the Belfast Appeals court ruled the original 2016 incident to be a case of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, even though it was not a wedding cake, but one bearing a political slogan. After some £200,000 in legal fees (AUD $350,000), the Ashers Baking Company was compelled to pay £500 in damages to LGBTI activist Gareth Lee, who ordered the original cake in 2016.

Now, the case will go before the highest court in the UK – the Supreme Court. Daniel McArthur, general manager at Ashers, said this was a positive result. 

“The fact that the Supreme Court is willing to hear arguments is very encouraging and reflects the importance of the issues and the high-profile nature of the case.”

When the initial case was decided in 2016, high-profile gay activist Peter Tatchell condemned the move as an attack on free speech.

This verdict is a defeat for freedom of expression. As well as meaning that Ashers can be legally forced to aid the promotion of same-sex marriage against their wishes, it also implies that gay bakers could be forced by law to decorate cakes with homophobic slogans.

It seems the judges have decided that businesses cannot lawfully refuse a customer’s request to propagate a message, even if it is sexist, xenophobic or anti-gay and even if the business owners have a conscientious objection to it.

While many argue that the baker issue is irrelevant, the Ashers case is a clear example of how businesses and organisations can be affected when same-sex marriage is made legal. Those who are known to disagree with same-sex marriage are targeted by lobbyists. 

The simple fact is that in the frantic march for “marriage equality,” the people’s rights are being forgotten – or worse – deliberately trampled. Among the many consequences of same-sex marriage, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience are all at stake in the marriage debate. Individuals and organisations such as Ashers Bakery are targeted by lobbyists in order to force adherence to their ideology.

Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the Christian Institute, said:

“This is a vitally important case. The ruling in the Belfast court undermines democratic freedom. It undermines religious freedom. It undermines free speech.”

“This is a very important development. The Supreme Court does not consider every case which is brought to its attention and our legal team has already started to prepare for the crucial hearings which lie ahead.

 “We understand the Supreme Court will hear initial arguments from which they will then determine if they are to grant a full appeal hearing.

“If the judges agree to the appeal it will take place immediately during the two days set aside for the case to be discussed.

As Peter Tatchell said in 2016 when the Ashers case was first decided:

Although I strongly disagree with Ashers’ opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be compelled to facilitate a political idea they oppose.

Ashers did not discriminate against the customer, Gareth Lee, because he was gay. They objected to the message he wanted on the cake: “Support gay marriage.”

Discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and is rightly unlawful. But in a democratic society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with. I am saddened that the court did not reach the same conclusion.

For more background on the Ashers case, click here

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