The Irish case highlighting tensions between religious conviction and equal rights has now been determined in the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland. It concerns a bakery’s refusal to make a cake carrying the message “support gay marriage”.
The directors of the bakery in question, in Northern Ireland, oppose the introduction of same sex marriage into the country (where it is currently prohibited). They believe that this would be contrary to god’s law. This is at odds with the point of view taken by the person ordering the cake, who is associated with a Northern Ireland LGBT organisation called Queerspace.
The Court of Appeal held that this was unarguably a case of direct discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs. They rejected the bakers’ arguments that they had rights under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights which should be taken into account, namely freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The Court dealt with the conflict by stating that this would effectively be giving permission to people to discriminate on the basis of their religious belief , and the potential for arbitrary abuse would be substantial. It was always open to the bakers to provide alternative services so that they were able to manifest their beliefs and not come into conflict with the LGBT community.
This case is a further development in the line of authorities finding that having one particular protected characteristic should not be an excuse for discriminating against another. The cases invariably come out against actions which have a discriminatory effect.