So, a Christian Northern Irish bakery has been taken to court and found liable for breaking discrimination laws by refusing to bake a cake with a gay rights slogan on it for a gay customer. And it has blown up the news.
Ok, so the timing, what with the Irish referendum on gay marriage tomorrow (with the possibility of Ireland becoming the first country to democratically vote for gay marriage), is probably a big part of why this has blown up. But a big part of it has been the wildly disparate opinions on the judge’s decision.
I read this article in the Guardian today, and was completely surprised. Comparing a limited company refusing to serve a gay customer a gay rights-sloganed cake because the director disagrees with gay marriage to someone wanting to purchase a placard inciting racial hatred are two very different things.
I really struggle to see how this case isn’t clear. It is a private limited company. That makes it an entity in it’s own right, one with no religious affiliation. It is illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or political belief. For the company to refuse a client’s business because of his sexuality and the message of his cake in unlawful.
However, what really hit me was the personal timing of reading this article. I did a training module on Equality and Diversity in the workplace today, mainly focusing on the Equality Act, but with general guidelines towards acceptance and assistance of minorities in the workplace too. What struck me was the information that the LGBT+ community remain the group that face the most opposition to equality in the UK, and make up the majority of cases brought under the Equality Act.
We’ve accepted that racism, sexism, ageism, religious bigotry, prejudice against disability and mental health difficulties are unacceptable – why is homophobia still justifiable? Why does a discriminatory, freedom-imposing opinion become acceptable just because the opinion holder is religious?
Call me a liberal (well, I am a bit), but when our opinions start to impose on the rights of other groups, then we shouldn’t be imposing those opinions. But maybe good will come of #gaycakegate – even if people haven’t had their eyes opened properly to the extent of homophobia in this country, maybe it will tip the scales for the referendum tomorrow.