To Bake or Not to Bake? That is the Question
It would probably be fair to say that a lot of us like cake. No, actually, we love cake. Round ones, small ones, chocolate ones, Victoria sponges and even a coffee cake, it would all get eaten…or would it? What, however, if it were decorated with something you disagreed with, would you still eat it, or, in this case, bake it?
Mr and Mrs McArthur own Ashers Bakery in Northern Ireland, and their business is to bake, decorate and sell cakes. One day Gareth Lee placed an order with their shop assistant, to have a cake decorated with a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, and the caption “Support Gay Marriage”. Mr and Mrs McArthur are devout Christians who believe that gay marriage is a sin, so they cancelled the order and refused to make the cake.
Mr Lee said that he had been discriminated against because they had refused to bake the cake because he was gay. Mr and Mrs McArthur argued that they did not refuse because he was gay, but because of the message on the cake, as they felt this would be promoting a cause which they disagree with, and they didn’t want to go against their conscience. They argued that they would have refused to bake the same cake if a heterosexual person had asked for the same cake to be made, so it wasn’t because he was gay. They also argued that they have gay customers whom they serve, no problem, and a gay member of staff.
The Northern Ireland Court has now held that had they made the cake they would not have personally been promoting gay marriage, just as if they decorated a Halloween cake with a witch, it doesn’t mean they support witchcraft. The judge made a comparison to a cake with the slogan “Support Heterosexual Marriage”, which they would have made, so came to the conclusion that they must have refused because Mr Lee was gay, so there had been discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
What is interesting about this case is that it gives rise to a conflict between sexual orientation rights and those of religious beliefs, both of which are very important. It demonstrates that conflict can arise anywhere, particularly in the workplace, but even when stepping out to buy a cake!
Food for thought, but in order to avoid any conflict in your workplace, feel free to place an order with us by giving Howarths a call and one of our specialist and legally qualified team will be happy to discuss.
Telephone 01274 864999 and speak to Andrea or email firstname.lastname@example.org