Sir Patrick Stewart has stood by his defence of Ashers Baking Company in the face of criticism from LGBT supporters.
In a post on his Facebook page, the renowned Shakespearean actor stressed that his support for the McArthur family’s stand was based on the ‘fundamental right’ of free speech.
Last week Sir Patrick told Newsnight presenter Evan Davis that he had been following the case and agreed with the bakers.
Freedom to object’
Responding to accusations of being ‘anti-equality’, he wrote: “In my view, this particular matter was not about discrimination, but rather personal freedoms and what constitutes them, including the freedom to object.
“Both equality and freedom of speech are fundamental rights— and this case underscores how we need to ensure one isn’t compromised in the pursuit of the other.”
On BBC 2’s Newsnight last Wednesday, Sir Patrick, a prominent supporter of gay marriage, said that he defends the McArthur family’s right to object to a cause with which they fundamentally disagree.
When asked by Davis if the family had the right to decline to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage campaign slogan he said, “I found myself on the side of the bakers.
“It was not because this was a gay couple that they objected, it was not because they were going to be celebrating some kind of marriage or agreement between them. It was the actual words on the cake that they objected to, because they found them offensive.
“And I would support their right to say ‘no this is personally offensive to my beliefs, I will not do it’.”
Responding to his most recent remarks Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, said: “People know that he supports gay marriage and yet he defends the McArthur family’s freedom to take a different view.
“The fact that there was a backlash against him demonstrates the intolerance of some gay marriage supporters – who would rather criticise someone for defending freedom of speech than concede that the court ruling went too far.
“It is admirable that he is standing by his comments in the midst of such hostility. This goes to show just how significant the Ashers case is for freedom of conscience.”
Last week Mr Calvert told BBC Radio Ulster that Sir Patrick was like many others who thought the action against the McArthurs was going too far.
He said: “It’s very fair of him isn’t it? He strongly supports gay marriage but he thinks that the McArthurs should not be legally obliged to help promote it.”