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I think it is important to be able to be rationale about the substantive question posed and on reading the WHOLE of the Judgement I together with what I have read since yesterday many have come to the same conclusion as the Supreme Court.
LADY HALE: (with whom Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Hodge and Lady Black agree)
I am only going to copy 2 sections at the beginning, the remainder if you care to learn something you will look at the case on the Supreme Courts website.
1. The substantive question in this case is whether it is unlawful discrimination, either on grounds of sexual orientation, or on grounds of religious belief or political opinion, for a bakery to refuse to supply a cake iced with the message “support gay marriage” because of the sincere religious belief of its owners that gay marriage is inconsistent with Biblical teaching and therefore unacceptable to God. If the prima facie answer to either question is “yes”, then questions arise as to the rights of the bakery and its owners to freedom of religion and freedom of expression, under articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and what difference, if any, those rights might make to that prima facie answer.
2. At first instance in the county court, the district judge held that there was direct discrimination, both on grounds of sexual orientation and on grounds of religious belief or political opinion, and that it was not necessary to read down the relevant legislation to make it compatible with the bakery owners’ rights under articles 9 and 10 of the Convention. The bakery and its owners appealed by way of case stated, raising seven questions, to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal only found it necessary to answer two questions, holding that there was direct discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and that it was not necessary to read down the legislation to take account of the bakery owners’ beliefs. The bakery and its owners wish to appeal to this court.
So there we have the question which the Supreme Court Judges had to decide upon, I have read the whole 30 page decision transcript and its interesting in how “The Equalities Commission” whether here in Great Britain or Northern Ireland have attempted to get into every aspect of our lives something I was not aware of until this ruling. From what I have gleamed from this ruling is “it was always about the cake itself, never the customer”, that’s what I had thought when I first read this nearly four years ago and now the United Kingdoms highest court has come to the very same conclusion. The five justices on the Supreme Court have unanimously decided that the refusal to make a cake with the slogan “support gay marriage”, by Ashers bakery in Belfast, did not discriminate against Gareth Lee, the LGBT activist who ordered it.
If Ashers had refused to serve Lee because he was gay, then that would have been a clear act of discrimination, and the bakery’s evangelical Christian owners would absolutely have deserved to be prosecuted and fined. But that’s not what happened.
As the president of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, said and I quote “The bakers did not refuse to fulfill his order because of his sexual orientation. They would have refused to make such a cake for any customer, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Their objection was to the message on the cake, not to the personal characteristics of Mr Lee. “Accordingly, this court holds that there was no discrimination on the ground of the sexual orientation of Mr Lee.”
That is exactly the argument I have been making since this costly, divisive case, which was ill-advisedly brought by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission, first emerged in 2014.
Anyone, gay, straight or anywhere in between who was a supporter of marriage equality could have walked into the Ashers shop on Belfast’s Royal Avenue and ordered a cake with that slogan on it. It was a grave error of logic to assume that a customer asking for a pro-equality message must be gay, and that a refusal to agree to such a request, therefore, made that person a victim of discrimination.
Now I have never really been a great fan of the veteran gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, but this time he was correct because he also came to acknowledge, after initially condemning Ashers, is in forcing businesses, by law, to help promote political or religious ideas with which they profoundly disagree.
In an open, tolerant and free democracy, no individual, institution or company should be under any obligation to facilitate the dissemination of beliefs that are antithetical to their own ethos. As Tatchell correctly observed, “discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas and opinions”.
Instead, let the judgment stand for what it is, “A Victory for Freedom”, which means a victory for all of us. We have the liberty to choose our own political or religious beliefs and stick by them, regardless of how unpopular they may be. We have the liberty to refuse to have the beliefs of others imposed upon us by an authoritarian arm of the state.