2014: Belfast, Northern Ireland:
A "Freedom to discriminate" court
involving a cake celebrating
The cake's message supports gay
marriage; the bakery did not.
Part 1 of four parts
An outdoor wedding of two men who are either gay or bisexual.
Gareth Lee, a gay supporter of equal marriage, wanted to buy a custom cake for a celebration on asked one of the bakeries to produce a custom cake.Ashers Baking Company
Daniel McArthur, an evangelical Christian, manages a string of seven bakeries in Northern Ireland that are owned by his parents, Karen and Colin McArthur. During 2014-MAY-09, Gareth Lee, a gay supporter of equal marriage, asked one of the bakeries to produce a custom cake. It was to contain images of:
- two Sesame Street characters,
- the words "Support gay marriage," and
- the logo of a Northern Ireland gay-equality group, Queer Space.
He ordered the custom cake for an event celebrating International Day Against Homophobia.
Queer Space was founded:
"... in January 1998 for the promotion of LGBT visibility, resources, networking and communication. ... It is run on a collective basis where everyone is equal & welcome to participate at whatever level they want to. ..." 2
Lee placed the cake order to celebrate the recent election of Andrew Muir of the Alliance Party as the mayor of North Down in Northern Ireland. It is located to the East of Belfast. Muir is the first openly LGBT mayor in the country.
Karen McArthur accepted the order on behalf of the bakery and Lee paid for the cake in advance.
However, as she said later:
"In my heart I knew that I would not be able to fulfil the order." 3
She later discussed the situation with an elder in her Presbyterian congregation.
Colin said that he discussed the matter with his wife Karen, asking her:
"... how we could stand before God and bake a cake like this, promoting a cause like this?" 3
Two days after the order was placed, on MAY-11, Karen contacted Lee and unilaterally cancelled the order.
Karen and Colin appear to be conservatives Christians. Within Christianity, both:
- The accuracy of the translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew, Greek & Aramaic, and
- The interpretation of the six passages in the Bible that most conservative Christian believe deal with same-gender sexual behavior,
are actively debated by sincere, devoted, and thoughtful Christians:
- Conservative Christians generally believe that all six passages condemn such behavior. They believe that same-sex marriage is immoral and should not be legalized in any country.
- Liberal Christians generally believe that the six passages do not deal with loving consensual same-gender behavior by persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation. Some believe that they deal with men attempting to rape angels, a man having sex with male temple prostitutes, men sexually abusing boys, and/or bestiality (a human having sex with another species). They typically believe in marriage equality -- that loving, committed same-sex couples should be able to marry under the same conditions as opposite-sex couples.
Garth Lee filed a complaint with Northern Ireland's Equality Commission.
As with most human rights organizations worldwide, the Commission initially tried to negotiate an out-of-court settlement between the two parties. The Committee wrote a letter to Ashers asking them to acknowledge that they had violated the anti-discrimination laws, and offer what the Commission called "modest" damages to the customer. They refused, and so the Equality Commission filed a civil case against Ashers Baking Company on behalf of their customer, Gareth Lee. 4
There have been a few similar cases in the United States in which a conservative Christian owner refused to bake a custom case for a gay or lesbian couple. However, they have all involved wedding cakes. This case involves an ordinary cake.
Reactions by the Christian Institute:
The Christian Institute 5 is a nondenominational, pro-life, conservative, Christian legal defense fund that promotes the Christian religion throughout the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. Its director, Colin Hart, apparently believes that when a message is added to a cake, then this implies that the baker agrees with the content of the message and is willing to promote its cause. Hart said:
"... the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland think that the McArthur family should not be forced to endorse a cause with which they profoundly disagree."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Photograph © Lisafx, downloaded from Dreamstime.com - Gay Marriage Ceremony - Rings Photo
- "About Us," Queer Space, 2015, at: http://www.queerspace.org.uk/
- Henry McDonald, "‘Gay cake’ order taken to avoid embarrassment, court told,"
The Guardian, 2015-MAR-27, at: https://www.theguardian.com/
- Jillie Beattie, "Ashers baker places his trust in God as he steps into court over gay cake row," Belfast Live, 2015-MAR-26, at: http://www.belfastlive.co.uk/
- The Christian Institute's web site is at: http://www.christian.org.uk/
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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on
Original posting: 2016-OCT-27
Latest update : 2016-OCT-31
Author: B.A. Robinson