Gay Cake Row: The Story so far…
It’s 9th May 2014. Gareth Lee goes to Ashers Bakery in Belfast to order a cake. Seems like any ordinary day – just a simple, mundane errand like most of us run on a daily basis. The cake had a simple message: “Support Marriage Equality.” The order is accepted, paid for and all is well…until two days later when Gareth receives a phone call saying the order will not be processed. Here begins one of the most divisive and passionate court cases in modern history.
On one side, Mr. Lee and the entire LGBT community feel that they are being discriminated against. Ashers is a public business and offers a service, which they are, by law, supposed to provide regardless of race, sexuality, gender identity, etc.
On the other side, a Christian family believe they are being discriminated against for being taken to court for not making a cake which “goes against their beliefs.”
It is a tough argument. Both sides have strong cases.
The Equality Commission wrote to Ashers about compensation in June 2014. By June 2015, over the three-day civil suit, it was revealed that Karen McArthur only took the order to avoid a confrontation. She knew that the order would not be carried out because it would contradict the company’s “religious beliefs.” Mr. Lee told how he was left feeling like a “lesser person” when his order was declined and the courts ruled that Ashers were discriminatory in the eyes of the law. They were ordered to pay costs of £500.
Despite having broken the law and “unlawfully discriminated” against a customer, Ashers appeal the decision. They lost. No surprise there. After all…They. Broke. The. Law!
Ashers then decide to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court. This is a monumental case. It’s the first time the Supreme Court will have assembled in Belfast. It is also the first time a Northern Irish court case has been live streamed.
Around the world, all eyes are on the case and its developments. Opinions on the “Gay Cake Case” fill the internet and create schisms across Twitter. Believe it or not, there are even some LGBT people who take the side of the bakery! Some say they opposed the message, not the man (See LGBT activist, Peter Tatchell’s article in The Guardian here)
While Peter makes valid points about Ashers opposing the message on the cake rather than Mr. Lee’s sexuality, the key issue is the homosexuality aspect of the slogan. For that reason, Ashers refusal to make the cake is prejudiced and that equals discrimination. It circles back to refusing a service based on sexual orientation.
What Does It Mean For Us?
As LGBT people we live in a troubling time. We are very lucky to have the rights that we have but they could easily be snatched away at any moment. This case just proves that while we are “tolerated” and “accepted” by society, we still don’t have the equality that we think we do. Northern Ireland, where this story takes place, for example, is a place where same-sex marriage is still banned. We are still subject to being looked down on, being treated as second class citizens and religion (which never actually condemned homosexuality) will often try to oppress us.
Ashers use their “conscience” as their defense. The problem with that is, they are more worried about a God whose existence is yet to be fully confirmed, over a living, breathing human being who stands before them. Any real Christian would be absolutely fine with making a gay cake. After all, Christianity is all about loving one’s neighbour, being kind, respectful and being a good person. So where does all this vicious hatred come from? We all know those true Christian people who love us and support us no matter what and it’s not fair on them to be tarred with the same brush as those who don’t.
At the end of the day, when it comes to discrimination, it’s the same as hate speech: If a statement crosses a line into victimising, shaming or hurting a person/group of people, then it loses all credibility. Ashers, who would happily make cakes supporting many other causes, just not same-sex marriage, have let their prejudice show and that is wrong. Would they have turned away an “anti-same-sex marriage” cake?
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What are your opinions on the Gay Cake Row? Let us know and keep the conversation going on Twitter. Just remember, this is a very divisive subject, but let’s keep it respectful please.