Belfast bakery loses appeal on 'gay cake' ruling

'Gay cake' ruling: A Belfast bakery has lost an appeal of a 2015 court ruling that it discriminated against a gay man by refusing to bake a cake with a message promoting marriage equality.

Niall Carson/PA/AP
Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company speak to the media at Belfast High Court, Northern Ireland, as judgment is due to be delivered on an appeal brought by the Christian bakers who were found to have discriminated against a gay man on Monday.

A local court rejected an appeal from a Northern Ireland bakery on Monday to overturn a ruling that it had discriminated against a gay customer by refusing to bake a cake promoting support for same-sex marriage. 

Ashers Baking Co., in Belfast, was found guilty of discrimination last May after the Northern Ireland Equality Commission brought a lawsuit against the bakery for refusing to bake a cake decorated with the words "Support Gay Marriage" and a picture of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie. Ashers argued that while it was happy to serve customers of any sexual orientation, baking such a cake would signify an endorsement of the message and therefore violate the owners' religious beliefs. 

"The defendants are not a religious organisation," said district judge Isobel Brownlie last May explanation of the original ruling, as reported by The Guardian. "They conduct a business for profit. As much as I acknowledge their religious beliefs, this is a business to provide service to all. The law says they must do that." 

The bakery lost in court for the second time on Monday, with the three-judge Court of Appeal's ruling that Ashers had indeed discriminated against the customer and violated British human rights law. 

"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," said Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan in the ruling. 

The controversy over the Bert and Ernie cake, which was first sparked in 2014 when the bakery accepted, then canceled, an order for the cake from gay rights activist Gareth Lee, comes at the same time as a growing push to legalize gay marriage in Northern Ireland, the only part of the United Kingdom where same sex marriage is not allowed. The practice was legalized in the Republic of Ireland last year after a referendum

The largest political party in Northern Ireland, the socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), defended the bakery's right to refuse to bake the cake. In contrast, a spokesman for Sinn Fein, the province's largest Irish nationalist party, called Monday's ruling a "victory for common sense and equality." 

Equality commission director Michael Wardlow said the court's decision to uphold the 2015 ruling more clearly defines businesses' legal obligation not to refuse service to anyone. 

"If you're a person of faith and choose to trade in the commercial realm, the judge has said that you have a responsibility too," he told the Associated Press. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Belfast bakery loses appeal on 'gay cake' ruling
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2016/1024/Belfast-bakery-loses-appeal-on-gay-cake-ruling
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe