Sexual Orientation Discrimination

The Supreme Court have held that a bakery did not discriminate against a gay man when it refused, on the grounds of the owners’ religious beliefs, to bake a cake with a photo of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street and the wording ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

Mr Lee had previously been successful in his claim in the Northern Irish courts for direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and political beliefs. However, this decision now overturns the previous decisions.

The Supreme Court noted that the bakery had not refused to fulfil the order because of any personal characteristics of Mr Lee or of anyone with whom he was associated; they refused because they objected to the message on the cake.

The Supreme Court also considered the freedoms relating to religion and expression protected under Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Those freedoms include a right not to be obliged to manifest a belief which you do not hold and the Court held that an infringement of those rights could not be justified by an obligation to supply a cake iced with a message with which the bakers profoundly disagreed.

(Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd and others)

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