A Christian bakery has won its appeal against a ruling that it unfairly discriminated against a gay man by refusing to make a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage slogan.
In a unanimous decision, the UK Supreme Court ruled in favour of the bakery in a landmark ruling on Wednesday.
Belfast High Court ruled in 2015 that husband and wife Daniel and Amy McArthur, who run the bakery, had discriminated against a customer when they refused to bake him a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” on it. They were ordered to pay £500 in damages.
The Belfast Court of Appeals then rejected their appeal in October 2016.
The couple then took their appeal to the UK Supreme Court, which sat in Belfast for the first time in May this year.
Delivering the verdict on Wednesday, Baroness Hale said the bakers did not refuse to fulfil the man’s order due to his sexuality. “The bakers’ objection was to the message, not the man,” she said.
She also added that “no one should be forced to hold or express an opinion which they do not believe”.
“This court holds there was no discrimination on political opinion or religious belief,” she concluded.
In 2016, the couple received some unlikely support from prominent gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who described the case against the couple as a “step too far”.
“It pains me to say this, as a long-time supporter of the struggle for LGBT equality in Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriage and gay blood donors remain banned,” he wrote. “The equality laws are intended to protect people against discrimination. A business providing a public service has a legal duty to do so without discrimination based on race, gender, faith and sexuality.
“However, the court erred by ruling that Lee was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation and political opinions. His cake request was refused not because he was gay, but because of the message he asked for. There is no evidence that his sexuality was the reason Ashers declined his order.”