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UK Supreme Court has an outbreak of reason over a cake.

Editorial Staff

Long, long ago we wrote about a distasteful case where a male customer had ordered a cake bearing a slogan that was a) illegal and b) offensive to the owner of the bakery. He refused, backed with public money, the customer alleged discrimination. Starting with a tribunal and running through The case, incredibly, has ended up in the Supreme Court where, on Tuesday, an outbreak of legal reasoning produced the only judgment that true reason could have conceived of.

A customer of a Bakery in Belfast asked for a cake to be decorated. No problem: the customer and the shop had an established relationship although it seems that the owners, Mr and Mrs McArthur did not know Mr Lee and, in particular, did know know his sexual orientation. He asked for the cake to be decorated with images of two characters from Sesame Street (itself on dodgy legal ground), the logo of a campaigning organisation "Queer Space" and the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" to be added. While homosexuality was not illegal in Northern Ireland, civil unions of same sex partners were illegal and the use of the word "marriage" was, and in many minds remains, abhorrent even though they support same-sex unions being legally recognised. Mr McArthur, the owners of Ashers Baking Company Limited refused to make the decoration as ordered.

The case has a parallel in the USA where the Supreme Court recently found that abortion clinics cannot be compelled to publish material demanded by the Right to Life campaigns and the State of California. The arguments are, broadly, similar.

Lee claimed sexual discrimination. The Defendants argued that there is a distinction between discriminating because of his sexual orientation, which they were adamant they did not, and saying that they would not publish a slogan which offended their deeply held beliefs. The Supreme Court found in favour of the defendants. The bullet points from the judgement are as below.

It as to be noted that, in the UK, the battle to reserve the word "marriage" for "a man and a woman in the presence of God" as described in religious tomes has been lost. Indeed, the Judges indirectly made that point, referring to the 2013 case of Preddy v Bull. Therefore the Judges did not have to consider that term. Similarly, the use of the word "gay" as a simile for "homosexual" has permeated language to such extent that even the Supreme Court judges use it freely.

- People of all sexual orientations, gay, straight or bi-sexual, can and do support gay marriage. Support for gay marriage is not a proxy for any particular sexual orientation.

- The evidence was that they both employed and served gay people and treated them in a non-discriminatory way.

- In a nutshell, the objection was to the message and not to any particular person or persons.

- what matters is that by being required to produce the cake they were being required to express a message with which they deeply disagreed.

- The important message from the Masterpiece Bakery case (US Supreme Court) is that there is a clear distinction between refusing to produce a cake conveying a particular message, for any customer who wants such a cake, and refusing to produce a cake for the particular customer who wants it because of that customer’s characteristics. One can debate which side of the line particular factual scenarios fall. But in our case there can be no doubt. The bakery would have refused to supply this particular cake to anyone, whatever their personal characteristics. So there was no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. "

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