Ashers lose appeal in ‘cake’ case

Ashers Baking Company screen captureThe summary judgement from the Court of Appeal today concluded with their answer to the two relevant questions posed by District Judge Brownlie in her earlier judgement against Ashers Baking Company:

For the reasons given we consider that it is only necessary to answer the following questions in the case stated:

· Was I correct as a matter of law to hold that the appellants had discriminated against the respondent directly on grounds of sexual orientation contrary to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2006 – Yes;

· Was I correct as a matter of law to hold that it was not necessary to read down or display the provisions of the 2006 Regulations or the 1998 Order to take account of the appellants’ protected right to hold and manifest their genuinely held religious belief that marriage is, according to God’s law, between one man and one woman, pursuant to Article 9 ECHR? – It is not necessary to read down or display the provisions of the 2006 Regulations.

The bakery is not allowed to only provide a service to people who agree with their religious beliefs.

In the present case the appellants might elect not to provide a service that involves any religious or political message. What they may not do is provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation.

In an opinion piece written for the BBC NI website, legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg said:

… there was nothing in the court’s decision requiring Ashers or any other business to promote a view with which the company’s directors disagreed. Ashers can keep within the law and not promote “other people’s views” by confining its custom-made service to birthday cakes — which is what it has said it will do.

A Jewish or Christian shopkeeper is not required to trade on the Sabbath just as a Muslim butcher is not required to sell pork. But if a business does supply a service, it must not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation — which means it must not refuse to provide a gay person with goods that it would provide to others.

In this case, said the courts, the correct comparison was not with a straight man who wanted a “gay” cake, which Ashers would have refused. It was with a gay or straight person who ordered a cake celebrating traditional marriage — which the company would have supplied.

And, as the appeal judges said, “the fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either.”