The owners of a Christian bakery did not discriminate against a customer by refusing to make a cake featuring the slogan “Support Gay Marriage“, the Supreme Court has ruled.
Daniel and Amy McArthur, who run Belfast-based Ashers Baking Company, won their legal battle against gay rights activist Gareth Lee, who had accused the pair of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and political beliefs.
Five justices on the Supreme Court were unanimous in their judgement over the dispute which began in 2014.
Delivering the verdict, President Lady Hale said: “It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person’s race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any of the other protected personal characteristics, but that is not what happened in this case.”
She added that the bakers did not refuse to fulfil his order because of his sexual orientation but because it would have meant supplying “a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed.”
The court added that “nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe.”
Mr Lee initially won the legal action widely known as the “gay cake case” in the county court and Mr and Ms McArthur were ordered pay damages of £500.
The couple them mounted an unsuccessful challenge at the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal in 2016 where they contended that it never had an issue with Mr Lee’s sexuality, but it was the message that they did not support.
Speaking outside the court, Mr Lee said the ruling made him feel like a second class citizen, adding: “I think this has consequences for everyone. Anyone can walk into a shop – you shouldn’t have to work out if you’re going to be served based on their religious beliefs. I am confused.”
“I’m concerned, not just for the implications for myself or other gay people, but for everyone single one of us. Do we have to guess when we go into a shop whether we’re going to be served or not?”
Additional reporting by Press Association