Gay Rights vs Christian Beliefs

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The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal has today decided an appeal in the litigation known as the ‘Gay Cake Case’.

A gay rights campaigner asked a christian baker to bake the cake pictured above. The baker refused and the campaigner claimed unlawful discrimination. Perhaps there were no other cake shops in town?

‘So how does that even work?’ you may ask. It goes like this: the campaigner is associated with the campaign to legalise gay marriage in Northern Ireland; the baker treated him less favourably because of that association and therefore on the grounds of gay/lesbian sexual orientation.

Most media attention has focused on the idea that the immovable object of religious belief was meeting the irresistible force of gay rights. Which would prevail in this modern incarnation of the ancient ‘spear / shield paradox’? ‘Roll up, roll up’, tickets for entry, edge of seat stuff. Even Patrick Stewart has commented. Please beam me up!

What they don’t tell you is this: associative discrimination is direct discrimination (i.e. less favourable treatment because of the protected characteristic itself, not something linked to it) and cannot be justified (by reference to religious belief, or anything for that matter).

So the baker was left to argue technical defence points, like freedom of speech (or if you think about, a kind of inverted freedom not to speak / write in icing).

Unsurprisingly it did not work; the Court of Appeal ruled against the baker and the sound of teeth biting down onto rosary beads was almost palpable.

The bottom line: ‘you cannot legally refuse a service to someone because of sexual orientation (either their own, or that of others who are associated with them)’. Most UK employers know this already: now the bakers of Northern Ireland do too.