10/10/2018

Ashers Bakery Wins Supreme Court Appeal

The Christian owners of a Northern Ireland bakery have won their Supreme Court appeal in the so-called 'gay cake' discrimination case, a decision that has divided politicians.

The UK's highest court ruled today that Asher's bakery was not discriminating against a customer when it refused to make a cake with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" on it.

The five justices on the Supreme Court were unanimous in their decision.

Responding to today's judgement, Sinn Fein Equality spokesperson Megan Fearon MLA said:

"We felt the original decision was the correct one so we are obviously disappointed by today's ruling.

"I know this ruling is also met with disappointment within the LGBT community and I again want to express my continued solidarity and support to them.

Speculation is mounting regarding the message the judgement sends to the wider LGBT community in Northern Ireland.

"We will take time to study this judgement to understand fully it's implications for to access goods, facilities and services without discrimination," Ms Fearon said.

Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O'Neill also expressed her concern, saying she was "disappointed" at the ruling in a post on Twitter.

"Further exploration required. There can be no uncertainty on the application of equality law," said Mrs O'Neill.

"Solidarity to our LGBT community today."
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In contrast, DUP MP Paul Girvan has welcomed the unanimous verdict, after he attended court with Daniel and Amy McArthur today, who run the family business and belong to his constituency.

Mr Girvan said: "Today is a victory for freedom of expression in the United Kingdom and for common sense.

"There can be little doubt that it has significant ramifications for free speech in Northern Ireland and beyond whilst not eroding important laws against discrimination."

The high-profile dispute began in 2014 and has cost nearly £500,000 in legal fees.

Today's decision in the Supreme Court overrules the previous decision by Northern Ireland's courts that Asher's bakery had discriminated against a customer.

The complainant, gay rights activist Gareth Lee, sued the company for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and political beliefs. His claim was supported by Northern Ireland's Equality Commission.

Mr Lee said the case had made him feel like a second-class citizen and that he is concerned about "the implications for all of the gay community" after today's ruling.

Asher's bakery general manager Daniel McArthur said he was both delighted and relieved by the ruling.

"I know a lot of people will be glad to hear this ruling today, because this ruling protects freedom of speech and freedom of conscience for everyone," he said outside the court.

Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin welcomed the decision.

(JG)

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