25 October, 2016
The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal has finally handed down its decision on the "Gay Cake" case. This case, more formally known as Lee v Ashers Baking Company, has clarified the position of whether one person's religious beliefs outweighs another's sexual orientation.
The family owned Ashers Bakery in County Antrim appealed the decision which found that they had discriminated on the grounds of Mr Lee's sexual orientation. One of the bakery's shop assistants received an order to decorate a cake with a picture of the Sesame Street characters Bert & Ernie and the caption "Support Gay Marriage". The owners of the bakery are devout Christians and cancelled the order. They refused to bake the cake as it conflicted with their religious beliefs and they did not want to be perceived as supporting gay marriage as they consider it to be sinful.
The Court of Appeal upheld the original decision and the Lord Chief Justice concluded that "The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either". By cancelling the order, the judges found that this case amounts to direct discrimination, as a result of 'associative discrimination' with the gay and bisexual community.
This case has received international attention and is now one of the leading cases which identifies the clash between the right to hold religious beliefs and protection against sexual orientation discrimination.
For advice or assistance in relation to this issue please contact a member of the Forbes Employment & Education Team on 01772 220022. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.