A four-and-a-half year discrimination case has finally concluded today with the bakery owners who refused to make a so-called ‘gay cake’ winning their appeal at the UK Supreme Court.
The Christian owners of Ashers bakery in Northern Ireland refused to make a cake sporting the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’ on the basis that the slogan was inconsistent with their religious beliefs.
Ashers initially lost the case and the subsequent appeal but went on to win their appeal at the Supreme Court.
The case reminded me of Christian guesthouse owners Hazelmary and Peter Bull who refused to let a gay couple stay in a double room at their Cornish B&B.
On that occasion the Supreme Court ruled that, Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, had been discriminated against by not being allowed to stay at the guesthouse.
The key difference is that in turning away Mr Hall and Mr Priddy, the guesthouse owners were directly discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation.
Whereas the bakery successfully argued that it hadn’t refused to make the ‘gay cake’ due to the customer’s sexual orientation. It was the message they objected to and they would have declined the sale from any customer irrespective of the customer’s sexual orientation.
On the face of it The Equality Act appears relatively straight-forward, clearly outlining the protected characteristics – age, gender, race, sexuality, disability and nationality. However, when it comes to applying the law, the grey areas can quickly become evident.
It is so important for businesses to familiarise themselves with The Equality Act and, if in doubt, to seek advice from an employment solicitor.