Peter Tatchell has said that he was “wrong” about the gay cake row and that he has changed his mind.
In 2014 a bakery in Northern Ireland refused to make a cake with the inscription “support gay marriage” citing the owner’s religious beliefs. The cake was order by an gay right’s activist called Gareth Lee, who subsequently took Ashers Bakery to court. The court found that the owners acted “unlawfully” in denying service to Lee.
At the time the judge said,
“Whilst defendants have right to religious beliefs they are limited as to how they manifest them.”
Writing in the Guardian today leading human rights advocate Peter Tatchell said that he was “wrong” in supporting Lee’s legal claim and has said that the law “should not require bakers to promote gay marriage”.
Two days before the Asher’s is considered by the Appeal court Tatchell has changed his mind saying that he wants to “defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion” as well as defend the rights of the gay community.
Speaking about his U-turn Tatchell said,
“I profoundly disagree with Asher’s opposition to same-sex love and marriage, and support protests against them. They claim to be Christians and followers of Jesus. Yet he never once condemned homosexuality. Moreover, discrimination is not a Christian value…
“Nevertheless, on reflection, the court was wrong to penalise Ashers and I was wrong to endorse its decision…
“For sure, the law suit against the bakery was well intended. It sought to challenge homophobia. But it was a step too far. ..
“The judge concluded that service providers are required to facilitate any “lawful” message, even if they have a conscientious objection. This raises the question: should Muslim printers be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Or Jewish ones publish the words of a Holocaust denier? Or gay bakers accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? If the Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far-right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes or print posters with bigoted messages.
“In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas.”