'Gay Cake' Update

In November 2018 we reported on the case of the bakery who refused to supply a cake with the words “Support Gay Marriage” iced on the top due to the conflict of the message with their religious beliefs and employer’s were advised to ensure that discrimination policies were up to date and any complaints investigated promptly and thoroughly.

In the case of the so-called ‘gay cake’, the Supreme Court found in the bakery’s favour ruling that the bakery’s refusal was based solely on their objection to the cake’s message and not on the cake purchaser’s sexual orientation and was therefore not discriminatory.

The Court accepted that the bakery would have still served Mr Lee or any other homosexual individual a different cake and would not have baked a cake with the message “Support Gay Marriage” for any heterosexual individual either. The bakery had invoked their right to not express a particular opinion and there was thus no discrimination on the grounds of political opinion either.

Belfast human rights law firm Phoenix Law confirmed last month that it had been instructed by Gareth Lee to challenge the Supreme Court’s decision by taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Lee’s legal team position is that the Supreme Court ruling should be overturned because baking the cake did not imply “the bakery supporting (expressly or implicitly) the message of the cake”.

Lee’s lawyer Ciaran Moynagh said: “We’re concerned the ruling in this case allows any company, its shareholders or owners to hold religious or political views and those views trump the rights of its customers. The supreme court ruling blurred the line, created legal uncertainty for all of us in Northern Ireland and the ECHR is the appropriate place to clarify this issue.”

Employers should therefore continue to ensure that policies are up to date and to watch this space as to how this matter progresses.

Posted on 5 September, 2019 by Ortolan

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