PETER TATCHELL: Ashers “gay cake” verdict is a victory
Leading human rights activist has said that verdict that the Ashers Bakery did not discriminate in refusing to make a “gay cake” is a victory for freedom of expression.
Peter Tatchell has described the act of same-sex marriage as a “political idea” and that no business should be forced to produce a product that they have a ‘conscientious objection” to. He stated that the verdict that the Ashers Bakery did not discriminate in refusing to honour an hour for a cake which had “Although I profoundly disagree with Asher’s opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be forced to facilitate a political idea that they oppose”.
He added, “Businesses can now lawfully refuse a customer’s request to emblazon a political message if they have a conscientious objection to it. This includes the right to refuse messages that are sexist, xenophobic or anti-gay, which is a good thing”.
Appeal after appeal
The Asher’s Bakery row has rolled on since 2014 when the Christian run Ashers Baking Co. in Northern Ireland refused to make a pro-gay marriage cake, which featured a slogan “Support Gay Marriage – Queer Space Born 1998” with a picture of Sesame Street characters Ernie and Bert, because it says it clashed with the ethos of their company, saying,
‘We thought that this order was at odds with our beliefs, certainly was in contradiction with what the Bible teaches.’
Queer Space is an organisation, which seeks to increase the visibility of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Community in a positive manner to counteract the disregard, and negative images presented to the general public.
They didn’t discriminate because the customer was gay…
Tatchell continued, “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. But in a free society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas that they disagree with. I am glad the court upheld this important liberal principle.
“If the original judgement against Ashers had been upheld it would have meant that a Muslim printer could be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed and a Jewish printer could be forced to publish a book that propagates Holocaust denial. It could have also encouraged far right extremists to demand that bakers and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions.
“That would have set a dangerous, authoritarian precedent that could have been open to serious abuse.
“Discrimination against people should be illegal but not discrimination against ideas and opinions,” said Mr Tatchell.