21 October 2016
Ashers ruling - will justice be done?
At 10am on Monday, 24 October 2016, the Court of Appeal in Belfast will deliver its ruling in the case brought by the Equality Commission against Ashers Bakery.
Peter Lynas, former barrister and EA Northern Ireland director commented:
"Ashers Bakery discriminated against an idea, not a person. While the law rightly prohibits the later, the former is not only allowed, but encouraged in a healthy democratic society. A law designed to protect a minority is now being used by the new majority to force their views on others."
"What began as a battle to remove state discrimination against the LGBT community, now seeks to use state power to punish those who refuse to support same-sex marriage. This is what John Stuart Mill warned of when he spoke of the 'the tyranny of prevailing opinion'."
"If this appeal is lost, freedom of conscience and religion will effectively be banished from the public square for everyone in Northern Ireland.
"This is not about special protection for Christians. The mark of a democratic society is that competing views are discussed and debated. Forcing someone to promote a view that they fundamentally disagree with is the antithesis of a free and fair society.
"Let's hope justice is done."
Tel: 07766 444 650
After the ruling the following are available for comment at the court:
Peter Lynas, NI director,
David Smyth, NI public policy officer, 07739 307656
Notes to Editors
Background to the case:
The McArthur family, who own Ashers bakery, run a successful family business. Gareth Lee, a gay rights activist, asked Ashers bakery to make a cake with the slogan 'Support Gay Marriage' on it. Ashers were happy to sell Mr Lee a cake, but not to promote a view contrary to their firmly-held religious beliefs. When they ultimately declined his order, Mr Lee went to the Equality Commission who supported his claim alleging discrimination. The Christian Institute are supporting Ashers Bakery. At first hearing in the County Court, Ashers bakery was found to have discriminated against Mr Lee on all three grounds of the claim - sexual orientation, religious belief and political opinion. The Attorney General intervened in the Appeal case raising issues about the ECHR compatibility of the very legislation on which the initial findings were made. The judgement from the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal is due on Monday 24th October.
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