News

Lady Hale and Supreme Court colleagues to hear ‘gay cake’ case today

By on
72

Justices sit in Belfast for first time, as human rights barrister predicts case outcome for Legal Cheek

The Supreme Court will hear one of the most headline-grabbing human rights cases of recent history today, and from the city the events of the case took place in, Belfast. Lee v Ashers, the so-called gay cake case, has polarised opinion but Doughty Street Chambers barrister Jonathan Cooper OBE tells Legal Cheek its outcome will be a win for equality.

At the centre of this case is Ashers, a seven-shop bakery business in Belfast whose name derives from Genesis 49:20: “Bread from Asher shall be rich, and he shall yield royal dainties.”

Image credit: Ashers Baking Co

The married Christian couple at Ashers’ helm, the McArthurs, in May 2014 received an order for a cake bearing the slogan ‘Support gay marriage’. This request was made by gay rights activist Gareth Lee, who wanted the cake to mark the end of ‘Northern Ireland Anti-homophobic Week’. Gay couples cannot legally marry in Belfast.

Days later, Ashers phoned Lee and cancelled the order because the bakery is a “Christian business”, much to Lee’s upset. Lee, who is a member of QueerSpace, an LGBT advocacy group, said it wasn’t right a “business can choose to serve me depending on its views of my sexual orientation, religion or politics”. The bakery says the order was cancelled because of the message, not because Lee is gay.

Lee, backed by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, sued Ashers, claiming he’d suffered discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and on the grounds of his political opinion. In 2014, a district judge said the bakery’s actions were direct discrimination.

Ashers, which has been supported by The Christian Institute throughout the case, appealed to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal and, in 2016, lost.

The 2018 Chambers Most List

The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Declan Morgan, said in his judgment: “The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either.”

Now, following a reference from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, it’s time for the Supreme Court to have its say. While the case has divided opinion (see the poll above) human rights specialist Cooper thinks it will be a hat-trick for Lee. He tells Legal Cheek:

“Lee was demeaned by Ashers bakery. His dignity was denied. We live in a rich and diverse society. If Ashers want to be part of that wider community they have to welcome everyone and provide their services without judgment. Good for Lee for standing up to this Goliath armed only with law, justice and equality. He will win.”

While Cooper predicts Lee will win, David Scoffield QC, Sarah Crowther QC and Professor Christopher McCrudden from Queen’s University Belfast will be trying to steer the court onto Ashers’ side. Robin Allen QC and Tom Royston will appear for the respondent, Lee.

The case will be heard by Ladies Hale and Black and Lords Mance, Kerr and Hodge in the Inns of Court Library at the Royal Courts of Justice. There will be almost 60 seats and six wheelchair spaces available for members of the public who’d like to watch proceedings first-hand, as well as an overflow space that can accommodate around 40 people.

Lee v Ashers is the second case the five justices are hearing during their trip to Northern Ireland.

The five justices yesterday heard arguments in the case of Mclaughlin, about whether Northern Ireland’s benefits system for widowed parents is incompatible with human rights law because it does not cover non-married couples.

The Westminster court’s short trip to Belfast follows a June 2017 stint in Edinburgh, where the justices heard cases on sham marriages, prison sentences and more. Cardiff is expected to be next on the agenda, the court hoping to remind the public it’s a UK court and not a London court.

The gay cake hearing is expected to begin at 10:30am today and will last two days.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub

72 Comments

Anonymous

As King Harvard once said, let the gays have cake.

1990s Generic Playground Insults Ltd

That is so gay…

Richie

GAY
GAY
GAY
GAY
WIDOW
GAY

Aha! Widow!

“Busty…raven-haired… millionairess! Gay…”

GAY
GAY

Hang on, Eddie, this is the gay section!

Eddie

Let’s have a look in the lonely hearts column!

Well he’s not going to get very far is he? “Gay”?

Curious George

How can a cake be gay?

Is it attracted to other cakes?

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

Go away.

Anonymous

Couldn’t they have just picked a different bottle of ginger beer, instead of pushing their anti-snail activist agenda on the rest of us?

Trumpenkrieg

Donoghue wasn’t going cafe to cafe drinking bottles of ginger beer intending to get stomach cramps.

The Brown Knight

How do you know?

Anonymous

Was I the only one to spot the rhyming-slang homophobia there???

Corbin.Sympathiser.Emulator

I think Trumpenkrieg is of the penusian persuasion.

Who can’t spell Corbyn

*

Anonymous

I am a firm believer that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. However, so long as Adam and Steve are fully aware of the fact that in the eyes of God they are committing a sin and that they may end up in hell because of it, I think they should be legally free to act in such a way.

Anonymous

I absolutely agree. It’s written in a book, and you can’t argue with that.

Anonymous

The bible is more than just a book my brethren.

Anonymous

My copy is definitely just a book – should I take it back for a refund?

Progressive Christian

There’s Truth and Salvation in that book, or more accurately, collection of books.

And for what it’s worth, Jesus is ever recorded as actually having said anything about homosexuality.

He wasn’t all that keen on rich people or judgmental people though, and he advocated the redistribution of wealth.

Try reading the gospels and you will find a very progressive message there.

Anonymous

And while Islam makes women cover up, Jesus put the responsibility firmly on the man to control himself.

Watch out Harvey!

Anonymous

Have you read the Quran?

It is a book of peace. Islam is a religion of peace.

You are in no place to comment on Islamic customs. You had better watch what you say, otherwise there will be… implications.

Anonymous

Will there be implications if I point out that in the Quar’an it is recorded that Mohammed married a SIX year old and had SEX with her when she was NINE?

In the West we have a word for that behaviour, (from the Latin, I believe).

Anonymous

That is completely out of context. Those ages were perfectly normal in that society and culture.

Odin

The truth is……..the bible is a thing……and god is bigger than the bible…..far bigger actually : )…..evangelist christians dont tend to see that concept though……as its too much like the real message of Jesus….. : )

Anonymous

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

The Brown Knight

People who commit sweeping generalisations – what a bunch of complete tossers

Colin the Caterpillar

I don’t think they will, but I do believe the bakers should be successful.

They objected to the content of the message on the cake, not to the people requesting it. That would be analogous to forcing vegan restaurants to sell steaks or making an Islamic publisher to publish a pork cookbook.

It would be a dangerous road to go down to allow consumers to force service providers to enter into contract, almost decimating the notion of freedom to contract.

Ciaran Goggins

The cake is not gay, the message on it is. Would you really want a wedding cake baked by folks who hate you? Or your lifestyle? Apparently you can get a “Kill all white men” one but not a 14/88 one.

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Why do you want to buy a pro-Nazi cake?

Anonymous

14/88?

Corbyn. Symphathiser

This is Nazi terminology: it stands for “the fourteen words”, which I believe are from Mein Kampf, and the eighth letter of the alphabet is “H”, hence “HH”, an abbreviation of a famous Nazi salute for their leader.

Trumpenkrieg

The fourteen words are “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”.

What exactly is it about the content of that slogan do you find objectionable?

Anonymous

Because Hitler’s way of doing so was to commit genocide.

Have you studied 20th century history?

Trumpenkrieg

So because of what one regime did, European people must have no right to self-determination?

Corbyn. Symphathiser

The sort of obvious racist context behind it is my main objection.

Trumpenkrieg

So European people having a right to self-determination is racist?

Do you hold brown people to the same standard?

Corbin.Sympathiser

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

Trumpenkrieg

Well, you people tend to let the mask slip sooner or later…

Ciaran Goggins

The alternative 14 words dwells on preserving the purity of the white woman.

Trumpenkrieg

Yeah good luck with that!

Ciaran Goggins

Partly correct, 88 can mean H.H OR it can be the 88 laws that whites live by.

Ciaran Goggins

20th April?

Anonymous

Why did LC delete a left wing post?

The Brown Knight

“The bakery says the order was cancelled because of the message, not because Lee is gay.” If this is the truth then I think that it’s the right of a private individual operating a private business to avoid associating itself with a certain message. Does it constitute bigotry or discriminatory behaviour to simply refuse to shout “I love gays” through a loudspeaker?

There’s a thin line here, but a private individual does not have a duty to advocate the rights of those whose beliefs or actions he/she does not agree with. Also, the argument that if the bakers “want to be part of [the] wider community they have to welcome everyone and provide their services without judgment”, whilst it demonstrates a nice (perhaps common sense) sentiment, is not necessarily true depending on the context in which it operates.

There is of course a negative duty to not unlawfully impede upon another’s ability to advocate their stance or practice their beliefs within the confines of the law, but I think that the argument is that they would refuse to bake this if it were ordered by a straight person and therefore there was no discrimination based on sexual orientation. I don’t agree with the bakers’ stance, I honestly think it’s a bit ridiculous that they refused the order – but last time I checked it is not unlawful to be ridiculous.

Cecil the Poof

The way it works:

Baker makes plain cake for a straight but refuses to make plain cake for a gay = direct discrimination.

Baker refuses to make cake with gay message for a straight or a gay = indirect discrimination as a gay is more likely to be ordering said cake.

That said I can’t understand why the activist would go to to a known Christian baker in order to order a cake he knew would be reluctant to make it.

Seems like a set up to make a point, to me.

That’s not Ok.

The Brown Knight

“Baker refuses to make cake with gay message for a straight or a gay = indirect discrimination as a gay is more likely to be ordering said cake.”

How does one qualify this? Correlation and causation are two separate things.

Cecil the Poof

I wonder if Sesame Street have an interest in this?

Surely it would be breach of copyright to have Bert and Ernie on the cake?

The Brown Knight

Domestic use of copyrighted material would not usually attract copyright challenges

Anonymous

But the baker isn’t printing it for domestic use, therefore can the baker be liable if they print it?

A worried poster maker

It’s an interesting case. If it is accepted that they are not refusing to serve a gay person, but are refusing to print a slogan, then it sets a strange precedent. Does this mean that printers have a cab rank rule? Can an actor refuse to play a gay man or woman?

Bakery should probably have said they were a bit busy and couldn’t accommodate the order in time. Bet they are kicking themselves for their explanation.

Anonymous

I believe it’s been reported the claimants as gay activists went in their specifically knowing they were Christian there was s bakery down the street who would have fulfilled the order but they did not use there premises because they wanted to challenge freedom of conscience and religion in the workplace. As you say in a business you own this is a very dangerous precedent I think I might go into a halal butchers and demand they serve me non halal meat and then sue when they refuse.

Worried about the complete inequality of modern equality

Exactly – or go and compel a Muslim printer to print T-shirts saying ‘Curse Allah’ on or ‘Eat pork’.

There’s no difference whatsoever – there are all sorts of jobs where people are in danger of ‘compelled speech’ against their own beliefs or conscience.

This is why leading gay activists like Peter Tatchell are supporting Ashers Bakery outspokenly. They know the boot could be on the other foot next time, and that this case is NOT about discrimination against serving a person but about ‘the message’ requested.

Anonymous

You would not have a case against a Muslim printers for refusing to print anti-Islamic slogans as you would not have a “protected characteristic”.

Unless you’re Jewish, I suppose. That one would be an interesting case!

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

A novel legal argument would be to say gay marriage is illegal in Northern Ireland and therefore to write the message on the cake was to argue for supporting an illegal activity, whilst incitement to commit a criminal offence is an offence in itself and so Ashers by completing the ordering would have been committing a criminal offence or assisting in the commission of a crime therefore the Message re gay marriage was irrelevant it could just as easily have said support murder and the principle would be the same the encouragement or incitement of a criminal act.

Anonymous

You may have a point there.

Is it actually a criminal offence to sodomise a gay marriage there?

Anonymous

* solemnise!

Damn autocorrect!

Anonymous

Yes is the answer. Civil Partnership is available but not same sex marriage furthermore, any couples who marry outside Northern Ireland and then return have the status of a civil partnership not marriage. The legislature has debated the point 5 times since 2012 with legislation even passing by a slim majority on one of those 5 occasions most recently in 2015 with 53 in favour and 51 against however the DUP passed a petition of concern as per the Northern Ireland Act 1998 thus the vote was not enacted.

Anonymous

lolpotatocopter

Anonymous

@Anonymous at 3:07 pm

I wasn’t aware there was a context in which f**king prepubescent children is ok.

It was perfectly normal in Nazi society and culture to persecute and kill Jews. Do we let them off the hook as well, just because they weren’t doing anything wrong by their own twisted standards?

Anonymous

Global standards dictated that the actions of Mohammed were fine. The Nazis were different – their standards were out of kilter with global standards and society at the time.
Notwithstanding the global situation, come on, it is Mohammed. He should be considered to be above the law. We all have our flaws.

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

Your comment will be deleted because, while factually correct, it may cause people to have negative thoughts about the religion of peace, and promote the notion that it is violent, misogynistic and paedophilic.

Being perceived negatively will offend those who choose to follow this faith, and such followers ought to be protected from such offence because some (but not all) such followers are not white British, and therefore require such protection.

Screaming Lord Such

Such is life.

Ciaran Goggins

Ned Kelly.

Anonymous

Being British is nothing to be proud of. Have you ever picked up a history book?

Anonymous

The founder of Britain’s traditional religion didn’t rape children.

Instead, he advocated for those who harmed them to be thrown off a cliff.

Matthew 18:6

Anonymous

Am I seeing this correctly?

The comment saying that it wasn’t globally accepted for men to be having sex with pre-pubescents in Mohammed’s time it was deleted, while the comment saying that it was OK remains.

Why?

It’s a religion.

Religion is a choice.

Not all adherents to that religion are BAME, ergo having a discussion about uncomfortable elements in that religion is not racist.

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

Anonymous

Yes, but most of them are Asian, that’s why it’s important not to go shouting things about Islam because you will offend Asian people.

Ali G

Show me the law that says you can’t offend!

Anonymous

Ehhhh shouldn’t the Irish Supreme Court be hearing this?!? Confusing.

Ali G

Ali inda NorthernIreland!!!!

Ali inda NORTHERNIreland!!!!

Join the conversation

Related Stories