Ashers Baking Company has won its Supreme Court case.
In a unanimous decision, five of the UK’s most senior judges upheld Ashers’ appeal against claims of discrimination.
The comprehensive ruling upholds free speech and prevents the law forcing businesses to express views with which they profoundly disagree.
Message, not messenger
Repeated throughout the judgment is the Court’s finding that the family’s objection “was to the message, not the messenger”.
Responding to the judges’ ruling this morning, Daniel McArthur, Ashers’ General Manager, expressed his delight outside the Court.
He said: “We’re delighted and relieved at today’s ruling. We always knew we hadn’t done anything wrong in turning down this order. After more than four years, the Supreme Court has now recognised that and we’re very grateful. Grateful to the judges and especially grateful to God.
“We’re particularly pleased the Supreme Court emphatically accepted what we’ve said all along – we did not turn down this order because of the person who made it, but because of the message itself.”
The ruling is significant not only for Northern Ireland but for the whole United Kingdom.
Senior judges accepted arguments put forward by The Christian Institute over the last four and a half years.
They agreed: “The objection was to being required to promote the message on the cake. The less favourable treatment was afforded to the message not to the man.”
“By being required to produce the cake they were being required to express a message with which they deeply disagreed.”
total vindication of Ashers Baking Company
Strongly underlining the law on compelled speech, the judges also quoted a previous case which said: “Nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe.”
Speaking on behalf of The Christian Institute, Deputy Director (Public Affairs) Simon Calvert called the ruling “a total vindication of Ashers Baking Company and the McArthur family.”
“The Court strongly agreed with Ashers’ lawyers that this case has always been about the message on the cake and not the customer; the message, not the messenger.
“Equality law was never intended to be used in the way the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland tried to use it in this case.”
Bert and Ernie
The case followed a decision in May 2014 by Ashers to decline an order placed at its Belfast store by a gay rights activist.
The Court strongly agreed with Ashers’ lawyers
He asked for a £36.50 cake featuring the Sesame Street puppets, Bert and Ernie, with the campaign slogan, ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
The customer also wanted the cake to feature the logo of a Belfast-based campaign group QueerSpace.
Ashers, owned by Daniel’s parents Colin and Karen McArthur, refused to make the cake because it carried a message contrary to the family’s firmly-held Christian beliefs.
But the taxpayer-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland launched a civil action against the family-run bakery, claiming its actions violated Northern Ireland’s equality laws.
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