"We appreciate that this looks like tit for tat, and it is"

“We appreciate that this looks like tit for tat, and it is”

(C) PERFOCAL

Perfocal, a photographer booking agency just refused service to the Ashers Bakery following on from the UK Supreme Court ruling yesterday which said that the bakery had not discriminated against a customer because of his sexuality, but because of the political message, he had asked the cake, “Support Gay Marriage” to be emblazoned with.

Perfocal enables members of the public to book photographers in major UK cities is, after learning of the details of a job they were booked for, refusing to share the photographs taken with The Christian Institute, a charity and lobby group supporting the owners of a Northern Irish bakery at the centre of a discrimination row.

The Christian owners of a Northern Ireland bakery won their appeal at the Supreme Court yesterday after refusing to make a cake with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’. The dispute began in 2014, after the customer, gay rights activist Gareth Lee, sued the company for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and political beliefs after the bakery had already accepted payment for the order.

Charity and lobby group The Christian Institute, paying the legal fees for the family that owned the bakery, used a photographer booking website to capture the moments before and after the case was heard. With estimated legal fees of £450,000 between both parties, the £36.50 cake has been described as ‘the most expensive cake in UK history’.

Private companies can accept bookings and then cancel if it offends their sensibilities.

The founder of the photographer booking website, Perfocal.com, has said in a statement on the company’s blog that the photographer booked on the day has been paid in full for their time by Perfocal, and the Christian Institute has been refunded. The Christian Institute paid for a 3-hour photography session, photo edit, all photos and extra for a 24-hour turnaround as opposed to the company’s usual 48-hour service. The statement made is within that 24-hour period, and the customer has been contacted.

The statement, including details of the £239 (+ £28 for rush delivery) booking, can be read here

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In a statement, Tony Xu, the founder of the photographer booking site Perfocal.com said,

“It’s been accepted in the highest court in the UK that private companies can accept bookings and then, if they feel that it goes against their morals, refuse that booking if it offends their sensibilities and it not be counted as discriminatory.

“We appreciate that this looks like tit for tat, and it is. We had no idea what the case was when the booking was made – we simply see the basic information, date, time, location. When our photographer on the ground learned what it was while doing the job, they felt immediately uncomfortable with the situation, as many members of the public are, but remained professional. As soon as I found out though, I realised this was an opportunity to highlight exactly why this kind of result is damaging. This isn’t just about standing up against discrimination, I hope our stance serves as an example of exactly where this kind of judgement could lead us. Where does it end?”

In the blog statement, Xu highlighted that the company is ‘proud to have been booked for many religious ceremonies’, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim celebrations and same-sex weddings, including high-profile individuals, and that they welcome customers from all backgrounds.