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Supreme Court will travel to Belfast to hear ‘gay cake’ case

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Lady Hale and friends out on the road

The Supreme Court will be sitting in Northern Ireland on 30 April next year to hear a case of massive public interest.

The venue of choice will be the Inns of Court Library at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast. One hundred members of the public will be able to go and watch, which is actually about 30 more than London’s Courtroom 1 capacity (though the venue of the court’s Scottish excursion, which we’ll come on to soon, was bigger).

But not all 11 justices will be going on the four-day trip. The court has confirmed that it’ll be president Lady Hale heading north, joined by her deputy Lord Mance, as well as Lord Kerr, Lord Hodge and Lady Black. Hale said:

“I am delighted that the Supreme Court will be sitting in Belfast in 2018… My colleagues and I strongly believe that the experience of watching a case in person should not be limited to those within easy reach of London.”

The Westminster court revealed its ambitions to head out onto the road under Lord Neuberger’s presidency. Thankfully for him, Neuberger managed to squeeze in one cross country trip before he retired this summer, him and colleagues leaving their central London digs and heading to Edinburgh in June.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

Though Neuberger has now left, his passion for travelling the country seems to be shared by his replacement, Hale. She continued:

“This will be a fantastic opportunity for local people to see the court in action on their doorstep. The Supreme Court is committed to being one of the most open and accessible in the world and, like all our hearings, our Belfast cases will be livestreamed via our website for everyone who cannot get to see us in person.”

Those interested in legal affairs may well want to take Hale’s comment on board and consider putting the Supreme Court’s livestreaming function to good use. This is because the five justices will be hearing a particularly interesting case while in Belfast: Lee v Ashers Baking Company, also known as the ‘gay cake’ case.

The important and well-publicised human rights case is about a cake a gay rights activist, Gareth Lee, tried to buy from a Northern Irish bakery called Ashers. While the bakery initially accepted his order of a cake bearing the slogan “Support Gay marriage”, the owners then decided making it would run counter to their Christian beliefs and refunded him the money. Lee claimed this was discriminatory and unlawful.

The bakery has lost its case both at first instance and on appeal. Many feel this was the right decision: the courts cannot be seen to be allowing providers of public services to pick and choose their customers in this way.

However, there are strong arguments to the opposite effect.

Speaking to Legal Cheek in the wake of last year’s Court of Appeal judgment, human rights specialist Shoaib Khan voiced his concerns:

“This was an important opportunity for the court to demonstrate its support for the right to freedom of religion, but it seems to have ended up further alienating religious groups. It is time that human rights groups and the legal system started treating the right to freedom of religion with the same respect afforded to other fundamental rights.”

Legal affairs fans will no doubt be watching with eagle eyes to see who the final appeal court side with. We can’t think of a more interesting or more popular case for the justices to sink their teeth into during their Belfast debut. Cardiff next?

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45 Comments

Anonymous

No

Anonymous

What’s the big deal? People are gay, get over it.

Anonymous

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom being described as “Lady Hale and friends” is as disrespectful as it is inane.

Katie, all people are asking is some basic journalistic standards.

(212)(14)

Anonymous

Someone got out on the wrong side of the bed, this morning.
Cheer up, life does get better 🙂

Anonymous

Yeah, your mum’s bed.

Ciaran Goggins

The UFF know where you live!

Anonymous

Typical of KK to reference Lady Hale. Let your obsession go Katie, this story is about something else.

Anonymous

I’m surprised there was no mention of Beyoncé by KK

Anonymous

If the Supreme Court finds discrimination here then anyone with religious beliefs whose job involves customising products to customers’ wishes will be under threat.

Would a Muslim or Jew make a banner or cake with ‘Jesus is the Son of God’ written on it?

Heck, could a liberal baker stomach making a cake with ‘Trump is the Best President Ever’ on it? We all know one person on here who would love that.

Trumpenkrieg

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Ciaran Goggins

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

With Lady Hale as the new President we already know the result they will lose. She never goes against the liberal, prevailing opinion. It might be nice if a court made the point that we are dealing with two fundamental rights and once the purchaser of the cake go down the road and get someone else to make the cake, the shop owner could not simply alter their fundamental beliefs, and should not be forced by the state to use their skills to support something they fundamentally disagree with. This is a privately owned business they should therefore be free to determine to whom they supply a service. They might lose custom as a result or face public vitriol but that’s business. I also find it extraordinary that you can have men only gentleman’s clubs or women’s only gyms that discrimination is “fine” but discrimination for the supply of a service from a private institution based on fundamental religious belief is not.

A trainee

Don’t conflate this with “who” is served. “No Jews no blacks” signs would therefore be acceptable/legal, which they certainly mustn’t be. It’s abojt the message on the cake, not the customer.

Trumpenkrieg

Yes, the political project of liberalism is so fragile that it is can not tolerate the freedom of people to arrange letters and words on a sign as they see fit

Anonymous

Well said.

Conflation. False equivalence.

Those are the two tricks that will be used to attempt to upend this sound CoA decision.

Logic

Shall we ban gay people from Uber, by that reasoning?

Anonymous

I was in an uber recently where the Romanian driver started on a long monologue on the abhorrence of homosexuals, fuck!ng pratt

A trainee

It’s not about freedom of religion at all – it’s about freedom of expression. Or rather it should be about freedom of expression and conscience – I don’t think being religious should get you an extra pass.

I by no means agree with the bakers in question – not at all. However, there is a really interesting question at the heart of the case and I hope the case doesn’t become reduced to “you didn’t serve a gay person, therefore you unlawfully discriminated”.

Should you have to print something you fundamentally disagree with? It’s a difficult question, anyone suggesting otherwise is being disengenuous.

If you are in England and you are a Labour supporter, can you refuse to print a cake message that is pro-Tory?

What about a remain campaigner and a pro-Brexit cake? What about something more extreme – something far right (but not far right enough to constitute a hate crime/be illegal)? A first gem immigrant and a fiercely anti-immigration slogan (“send ‘em back”)?

What about a gay bakery owner and an anti-gay marriage message/cake?

I think we are all guilty of backwards reasoning depending on the facts – for something less serious (political parties) we are inclined to say “you chose to open up a business, you have to put your own feelings to one side”. In the more serious cases we are inclined to side with the business owner.

On reflection, i fall on the side of the bakers. Gay marriage does not exist in Northern Ireland. Assuming that it is legally acceptable to refuse to print things that you don’t agree with, then I don’t see this case as discriminatory. It was the cake, not the man, that they objected to, and their viewpoint is aligned with that of the state. I wouldn’t be surprised if some backwards reasoning is used by the SC though (e.g. “gay people are more likely to support gay marriage; you are therefore indirectly discriminating against them”), which would be disappointing.

Anonymous

“If you are in England and you are a Labour supporter, can you refuse to print a cake message that is pro-Tory?

“What about a remain campaigner and a pro-Brexit cake? What about something more extreme – something far right (but not far right enough to constitute a hate crime/be illegal)? A first gem immigrant and a fiercely anti-immigration slogan (“send ‘em back”)?

“What about a gay bakery owner and an anti-gay marriage message/cake?”

Sigh. None of these examples involve discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, so they will not be affected by the ruling whichever way it goes.

Anonymous

The cake was irrelevant, it was homosexuality they really objected to, pure prejudice and bigotry. Jesus says nothing about homosexuality in the Bible.

Anonymous

The Bible doesn’t consist only of the New Testament and Jesus re-affirmed the old law that he did not clarify through his teaching in other words if he doesn’t mention it, it is because the old position still stood. This would include Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 amongst many others.

Ciaran Goggins

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Jenna Roberts

The point that nobody makes here is that the bakers were set up – they were deliberately targeted because it was known that the service would conflict with their freedom of religious conscience. The cake could be provided anywhere else. The baking of the cake was requested against religious bakers in order to start litigation. Targeting individuals and then labelling them ‘discriminatory’ for following their legally protected conscience just seems plain wrong.

Trumpenkrieg

Funny how all these oppressed and marginalised gay couples who just want to exercise their civil rights always happen upon the only devoutly Christian bakers on the high street.

Funny also how these oppressed and marginalised gay couples who just want to exercise their civil rights always happen to always be backed up by a battery of pro bono human rights lawyers and journalists willing to write positive coverage.

Corbyn. Symphathiser

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Ciaran Goggins

You, too huh? Waits for ban.

Let them eat cake

I am on the side of the bakers here, although I do think they will lose.

There has to be some discretion as to what services you offer. It is unreasonable to expect everyone to offer the same services regardless of their personal beliefs. As stated above, if they wanted a cake with such a message I am sure there are plenty others that would be happy to oblige.

I wouldn’t go to a halal butcher and demand that they give me the best non-halal sausages.

I’m all for liberalism, but refusing the appeal would arguably be the opposite of that.

Anonymous

Not looking good for the bakers following the gypsy traveller who was recently refused a pint by a barmaid. See recent decision in Bristol county court.

Anonymous

What’s worse is that Bert and Ernie aren’t even officially “out”.

This “queering” of childhood TV programmes is deeply worrying.

I’m with the bakers. It’s their business, so they should be able to tell anyone they like to eff off.

If the bakers were Muslim, it wouldn’t even see Court.

Anonymous

What is “Gay Cake”? Does it have a similar effect on Shatner’s Bassoon as ordinary Cake? I think we should be told.

Devo QC

Ya fookin’ gay cake!

Anonymous

Oh dear, another LC fail; the bakers are not “providers of public services”, they are a private undertaking. When Twitter closes the account of a right wing commentator, the Iliberals that dominate the US media deflect criticism by reminding us (correctly) that the First Amendment does not apply, Twitter being a private company. Having a “protected characteristic” under the Equality Act does not prove any inherent virtue in the claimant, it merely proves that the claimant belongs to a group that has played victimhood poker better than other groups that are not so favoured by the law.

Katie King

This is the comment, from Joshua Rozenberg, that we were referring to:

The directors of Ashers bakery remain free to hold their religious and political beliefs. We all do. But people who provide public services cannot pick and choose their customers on grounds of their sexual orientation, their political opinion or, indeed, their religious beliefs. And that is how it should be.

Anonymous

Oh bless your little cotton socks going on the defensive. Do you like turbot? I have some ordered from the fishmongers and I have a cracking bottle of Sancerre to pair it with.

Anonymous

Sounds like a meal fit for a King.

Ciaran Goggins

Or a Queen?

Anonymous

Oh for crying out loud, read the legislation. The point is not that they are providing “public services”, it is that they are providing services to the public.

Anonymous

Precisely: s. 29(1) reads “A person (a “service-provider”) concerned with the provision of a service to the public or a section of the public (for payment or not) must not discriminate against a person requiring the service by not providing the person with the service.”

Anonymous

Bringing law into a legal cheek comments section seems somehow unfair! You should let the children play without knowledge of such difficult ideas.

Anonymous

They locked me in a room and made me listen to Memories (David Guetta) for 4 hours each day. I hate that song now.

Tom

Will this reasoning extend to clubs only allowing women or accompanied men in? Seems the more penetrating issue…

Anonymous

This case doesn’t seem to actually about religious freedom, it is simply homophobia attempting to cloak itself under the protection of religious freedom. It is interesting that the bakery only seems to have refused to make a cake supporting gay marriage. There are innerable sins listed in the bible, for example adultery or wearing clothing made of mixed fabrics. Similarly the 10 conmandments make it quite clear that you can’t steal, you can’t murder and you can’t follow other religions.

As such, I’d be curious to know if this bakery also refuses to serve unmarried cohabiting women or men, whether they require a CRB check before making a cake (Just in case the customer has stolen or murdered in the past) or whether they would serve a Sikh or a Jew? I suspect that would be happy to serve all of the above, which suggests that this is about them trying to stay true to their religion, it’s more about them justifying their homophobia.

Further, the bible addresses this sort of behaviour, namely casting the first stone etc and warning against righteousness. If they were truly concerned about their religion they would know it wasn’t their place to judge the ‘sinner’ and that is reserved for God to do so.

Anonymous

*actually be about

*this is not about them

(before the grammar nazis seek to invalidate my point due to a grammatical deficiency)

Anonymous

1. The point about other sins is irrelevant for two reasons, firstly, whether or not they choose to incorrectly focus on one particular sin does not undermine the point that it is a majority religious belief that homosexuality is a sin and therefore they could rightfully argue that it goes against their religious belief to promote it. Secondly, most of the other types of sin people tend to quote in these situations no longer hold because of the teachings of Jesus so you need to put the Old Testament teachings in context of the New Testament for example the Leviticus food laws were clarified by Jesus in Mark 7:1-23 which is why Christians can eat Pork whilst Jews and Muslims do not.
2. Serving unmarried couples etc is also a flawed point they didn’t argue against serving gay people it was about the message on the cake not who they were serving. As the bakery owners have stated in interviews they didn’t know the sexuality of the customer and whether or not they were gay was irrelevant to their position. For example if they were gay and ordered a cake saying happy birthday there would not have been a problem.
3. Casting the first stone – this does not mean Christian should not confront sin and aid each other in following Christ. Indeed, the casting first stone point anyway in context was more all sin is equal so no one has the right to condemn someone else for their sin as being worse than their own not we shouldn’t challenge sin.

Anonymous

Let them eat cake.

…………………….

The cake has been eaten.

No more cake.

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