Legislation aimed at boosting equality is actually victimising traditional marriage supporters, a gay journalist has warned in light of a new threat of legal action against a Christian-run bakery in Northern Ireland.
The Daily Mail reporter Andrew Pierce, who has repeatedly spoken out against redefining marriage, accused the Government of making “empty promises” to protect freedom of conscience.
He highlighted the McArthur family who are being taken to court by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland over their refusal to make a pro-gay marriage campaign cake.
Pierce said the Commission, a tax-payer funded body, was “set up by the last Labour government under its controversial human rights legislation”.
“But what about the human rights of people who, for strong moral reasons or based on their faith need protection?” he asked.
He quoted Daniel McArthur, the general manager of Ashers Baking Company, who said his family is being “picked on” by the Commission, which is making them a “political showcase”.
Pierce commented that when redefining marriage was debated at Westminster, Maria Miller – the Tory Cabinet minister responsible for the Bill – “insisted” that those opposing the plans would not be subjected to any discrimination.
Miller said: “The Government is clear that the Bill does not prevent people, whether at work or outside, from expressing their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
“In no way will the measure undermine those who believe, for whatever reason, that marriage should be between a man and a woman. That is their right.”
But Pierce described this as one of many “empty promises”.
He also noted the case of Bryan Barkley, who was axed from his position as a Red Cross volunteer earlier this year because he opposes gay marriage.
And that of Adrian Smith, a housing manager from Manchester who was demoted and had his salary cut by 40 per cent because he said gay marriage in church would be an “equality too far” on his personal Facebook page.
Same-sex marriage has not been introduced in Northern Ireland, with MLAs voting three times in two years against changing the law.
Pierce concluded: “As a gay man in a civil partnership, I was often heckled and abused for opposing gay same-sex marriage.
“At the time the Bill was being debated in the Commons, I argued it could trigger a backlash against gay men and women if it was used to discriminate against those with strong views about why same-sex marriages are wrong.
“The public was given repeated assurances that freedom of conscience would be respected if the law on marriage was changed. Those promises seem pretty hollow now.”
The Commission served papers on the McArthur family yesterday despite the widespread public opposition. The date of the court hearing is still to be set.