The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal has upheld the decision in Lee v Ashers Baking Company that Ashers Bakery directly discriminated against the gay and bisexual community when its owners, Mr and Mrs McArthur, refused to make a cake with an image of Bert and Ernie and the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
The McArthurs accepted that they had refused the order because of their devout Christian belief that gay marriage is sinful. However, the Court of Appeal took the view that if a business is trading to the public, it will be faced with requests that may conflict with its owners’ or employees’ personal beliefs but such individuals shall nevertheless be bound by a duty to serve the public without providing unfavourable treatment.
If a business is concerned about trading in conflict with certain beliefs, it is permitted to refuse to provide a service brandishing any religious or political message generally. However, it was not open to the McArthurs to refuse an order which carried one particular message based on a conflict with their own religious beliefs with regards to sexual orientation.
And so, the McArthurs received the wooden spoon under discrimination law for following their Christian beliefs.