Ashers: A win for everyone

Supreme Court rules to protect freedom from compelled speech

The Supreme Court announced today that Ashers Bakery did not discriminate against Mr Lee when they refused to make a cake that said: ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

The key outcome of today’s ruling is that no one can be compelled to say anything that they profoundly disagree with.

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. Ashers have been supported in their case by the Christian Institute.

Peter Lynas, director of Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland, commented: “This is a win for everyone, no one should be forced to say something that they disagree with.

“It is disappointing that this case has been pitched as Christians versus the LGBT community. This ruling affirms that this was never the case. The Asher’s Bakery have served Mr Lee in the past and continue to be willing to serve him again.

“Whilst no one should be discriminated against because of any protected characteristic, this judgment is clear that this is not what happened in this case.

"The court found that there was no discrimination on the grounds of religious belief or political opinion, and ultimately concluded that compelled speech would not have been justified in this case.

“All three grounds that Ashers were originally found to have discriminated on have been unanimously dismissed by the highest court in the land. Asher have won, but everyone will share in the benefits.

“In the light of this ruling it is important that the Equality Commission to provide updated guidance and support for both business owners and customers around the provision of goods and services.

“Our hope and our prayer is that everyone in Northern Ireland is treated fairly and justly. This judgment is an important step in that direction.”

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Notes to editors

Peter Lynas is available for interview.

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