Huge Victory for Christian Bakers' Religious Rights at UK's Highest Court

David Blevins interviews the bakers at the heart of the Northern Ireland gay cake controversy

The dispute began in 2014 when Asher's bakery, run by evangelical Christians Daniel and Amy McArthur, refused to bake a cake iced with the words "Support Gay Marriage" for Gareth Lee, a gay man involved in the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

"But that is not what happened in this case".

"This matter has also damaged community relations with vested interests attempting to portray it as a battle between those of faith versus those of differing sexual orientation".

Lee ordered the cake in Belfast for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia.

The legal fees for the Northern Ireland case are estimated to be more than $800,000 combined. "We don't have the same rights in Northern Ireland as gay people as we do in the rest of the United Kingdom", he said.

Announcing the court's ruling on Lee's claim against Ashers bakery, Lady Hale said: "As to Mr Lee's claim based on sexual discrimination, the bakers did not refuse to fulfil his order because of his sexual orientation".

Larkin asserted Ashers' owners have the right to reject a request to put a pro-homosexual message on a cake under the nation's freedom of speech laws as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.

Northern Ireland MP Ian Paisley Jnr praised the decision, but condemned the "Legal bill [of] £360000 for a £30 cake" and called for the Secretary of State for NI to order a review of funding for the province's Equality Commission.

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"By being required to produce the cake they were being required to express a message with which they deeply disagreed". They entered into a contractual agreement to make this cake and then changed their mind.

Christian Institute Deputy Director for Public Affairs Simon Calvert said: "We are delighted at this common-sense ruling".

Ashers appealed to the Supreme Court in May after a lower court in 2015 ruled the bakery had violated anti-discrimination laws that protect people on the basis of sexual orientation.

Meanwhile human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell described the verdict as a "victory for freedom of expression".

"They include the right not to be obliged to manifest beliefs one does not hold".

He asked for a £36.50 cake featuring the Sesame Street puppets, Bert and Ernie, with the campaign slogan, "Support Gay Marriage".

The Equality Commission, meanwhile, said it was disappointed and expressed concern about the possible implications: "There is a concern that this judgment may raise uncertainty about the application of equality law in the commercial sphere, both about what businesses can do and what customers may expect", it said in a statement.

She added: "I do not seek to minimise or disparage the very real problem of discrimination against gay people", saying everyone was "born free and equal in dignity and rights". Such discrimination rightly remains unlawful. They objected to the message he wanted on the cake: Support gay marriage.′. But in a free society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas that they disagree with. "I am glad the court upheld this important liberal principle".

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