A strange case emerging in Northern Ireland has a prominent gay activist supporting a bakers decision not to produce a cake promoting gay marriage.
The issue involves evangelical Christians Daniel and Amy McArthur who manage a family-owned business: Ashers Baking Co in Newtonabbey, Northern Ireland.
In the summer of 2014, they were asked to create a cake for an event supporting the push for the legalization of gay marriage in Northern Ireland. The cake was supposed to have the images of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie on it along with the words “Support Gay Marriage.”
The order was initially accepted at the store and later cancelled because the McArthurs did not feel comfortable supporting gay marriage.
When they cancelled the order, Gareth Lee, who had requested the cake on behalf of the group Queerspace, took the McArthurs before England’s Equality Commission claiming discrimination.
In the court case that followed, lawyers for The Christian Institute representing the McArthurs argued this was not a case of discrimination because the McArthurs did not know Lee was gay. Rather, the Christian couple were simply opposed to the political campaign pushing for legalizing gay marriage in Northern Ireland, which is still not legal.
However, the judge ruled against the McArthurs stating their refusal amounted to discrimination and fined them 500 pounds.
Oddly the Equality Commission says people can’t be discriminated against because of religious views or sexual orientation — but the reality is the pendulum only swings one way.
The couple who plan to appeal the case to the Court of Appeal have gained an unusual ally in their fight — a prominent homosexual activist.
Though Peter Tatchell does not agree with the McArthurs’ views on gay marriage, he tweeted on February 1st that this was not an issue of discrimination as the McArthurs would have sold the cake if the words “Support Gay Marriage” had not been on it.
In an opinion editorial written for the British newspaper The Guardian, Tatchell stated he initially supported the case against the McArthurs, but has since changed his mind.
“Much as I wish to defend the gay community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion,” Tatchell said.
“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.”
Tatchell described the ruling as an “infringement of their freedom.” He grasped the fundamental issue of the case. This was an argument over ideas and people should have the freedom to disagree with one another without facing discrimination charges.
He asked should a Muslim printer be forced to print images of Mohammad forbidden under Islamic law or Jews be required to print materials of a holocaust denier?
In an interview with The Telegraph, Amy McArthur said, “it seems to be at the minute, that if you disagree politely with gay marriage then you are named as a bigot or a homophobe.”
Her husband Daniel described the last year and a half as something out of a science fiction novel where people are forced to think a certain way, “no matter what your conscience tells you.”
- It’s like a science fiction nightmare, says Christian bakers in gay marriage case: The Telegraph
- Gay campaigner: I was wrong about Christian bakers: WND.com
- I have changed my mind on the gay cake row. Here’s why: The Guardian
- Feature image Daniel and Amy McArthur photo: YouTube Capture/The Christian Institute