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The five Supreme Court judges unanimously upheld Ashers’ appeal against claims of discrimination. “This is a win for everyone”, The UK Evangelical Alliance says in a statement.
The Christian owners of a Northern Ireland bakery have won their appeal in the so-called “gay cake” discrimination case.
In a unanimous decision, the five judges of the UK's highest court ruled that Ashers bakery's refusal to make a cake with a slogan supporting gay marriage was not discriminatory.
The comprehensive ruling upholds free speech and prevents the law forcing businesses to express views with which they profoundly disagree.
“THEIR OBJECTION WAS TO THE MESSAGE”
The president of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale ruled that “their objection was to the message on the cake, not to the personal characteristics of Mr Lee”.
That is why they “would have refused to make such a cake for any customer, irrespective of their sexual orientation”.
“By being required to produce the cake they were being required to express a message with which they deeply disagreed”, she added.
Lady Hale pointed out that “this conclusion is not in any way to diminish the need to protect gay people and people who support gay marriage from discrimination”.
“It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person's race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief. But that is not what happened in this case”, she said.
“WE ARE GRATEFUL TO GOD”
“I want to start by thanking God. He has been with us during the challenges of the last four years. Through the Bible and the support of Christians, He has comforted us and sustained us. He is our rock and all His ways are just, Daniel McArthur, Ashers’ General Manager said.
Speaking outside the Court, McArthur pointed out that they were “delighted and relieved at today’s ruling. We always knew we hadn’t done anything wrong in turning down this order”.
“After more than four years, the Supreme Court has now recognised that and we are very grateful. Grateful to the judges and especially grateful to God”, he added.
McArthur believed that “a lot of people will be glad to hear this ruling today, because this ruling protects freedom of speech and freedom of conscience for everyone”.
“We are particularly pleased the Supreme Court emphatically accepted what we have said all along: we did not turn down this order because of the person who made it, but because of the message itself”, he concluded.
“THE MESSAGE, NOT THE MESSENGER”
The Christian Institute, which helped the Ashers with the appeal, called the ruling “a total vindication of Ashers Baking Company and the McArthur family”.
“The Court strongly agreed with Ashers’ lawyers that this case has always been about the message on the cake and not the customer; the message, not the messenger”, Deputy Director Simon Calvert, pointed out.
According to Calvert, “equality law was never intended to be used in the way the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland tried to use it in this case”.
“UNCERTAINTY ABOUT THE APPLICATION OF EQUALITY LAW”
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which has supported the action against the Ashers, said it would have to look at the implications of the judgement carefully.
“There is a concern that this judgement may raise uncertainty about the application of equality law in the commercial sphere, both about what businesses can do and what customers may expect”, Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, declared.
The case started in May 2014, when Gareth Lee, a gay rights activist, requested a cake featuring the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie, iced with the message: “Support Gay Marriage”.
Ashers bakery, owned by Daniel’s parents Colin and Karen McArthur, refused to make the cake because it carried a message contrary to the family’s Christian beliefs.
But the taxpayer-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland launched a civil action against the family-run bakery, claiming its actions violated Northern Ireland’s equality laws.
EAUK: “A WIN FOR EVERYONE”
The UK Evangelical Alliance (EAUK) has released a statement following the Supreme Court’s judgement on the Ashers Bakery case.
“This is a win for everyone, no one should be forced to say something that they disagree with”, Peter Lynas, director of Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland, commented.
According to the EAUK, “it is disappointing that this case has been pitched as Christians versus the LGBT community. This ruling affirms that this was never the case. The Asher’s Bakery have served Mr Lee in the past and continue to be willing to serve him again”.
“Whilst no one should be discriminated against because of any protected characteristic, this judgement is clear that this is not what happened in this case”, the statement added.
The EAUK believes that “in the light of this ruling it is important that the Equality Commission to provide updated guidance and support for both business owners and customers around the provision of goods and services”.
“Our hope and our prayer is that everyone in Northern Ireland is treated fairly and justly. This judgement is an important step in that direction [..] Ashers have won, but everyone will share in the benefits”, it concluded.