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Court of Appeal rules that Ashers Bakery directly discriminated on grounds of sexual orientation

Lee v McArthur and Ashers Baking Co. Ltd (Court of Appeal)

On 24th October 2016, the Court of Appeal found that Ashers Baking Company had directly discriminated against the respondent on grounds of sexual orientation, and religious and political belief, by refusing to fulfil his order for a cake in support of marriage equality.

The respondent was a gay man associated with QueerSpace, an LGBT organisation in Northern Ireland.  He ordered a cake displaying the QueerSpace logo and the caption ‘Support Gay Marriage.’  The cake was for a private function to mark the end of Northern Ireland anti-homophobic week and the efforts to campaign for marriage equality.  The bakery initially accepted the order, but on reflection contacted the respondent and stated that it could not fulfil the order because it was a Christian business. 

The respondent brought action on grounds of discrimination and won his case at the County Court.  The bakery appealed the decision on the grounds that the ruling impacted their Convention rights.  The Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal finding that,

This was a case of association with the gay and bisexual community and the protected personal characteristic was the sexual orientation of that community.  Accordingly this was direct discrimination.’

The refusal to provide the cake was held to be contrary to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006 and the Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998.  This legislation was found not to be incompatible with the bakery owners’ rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and freedom of expression, or the related claim of discrimination on grounds of religious belief and political opinion.

Read BBC News article here.

Discrimination, LGBT