Supreme Courts 2, Political Activists 0

This is good news:

A Belfast bakery run by evangelical Christians was not obliged to make a cake emblazoned with the message “support gay marriage”, the supreme court has ruled, overturning a £500 damages award imposed on it.

Ashers had refused to produce the cake, featuring the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie, in 2014 for Gareth Lee, who supports the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. He wanted to take it to a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia.

Crucially the judgement, which was unanimous, was based on the fact that the baker wasn’t discriminating against Lee for being gay, but objected to the message being put on the cake:

“It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person’s race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any of the other protected personal characteristics,” Hale said in the judgment.

“But that is not what happened in this case and it does the project of equal treatment no favours to seek to extend it beyond its proper scope.”

Freedom of expression, as guaranteed by article 10 of the European convention on human rights, includes the right “not to express an opinion which one does not hold”, Hale added. “This court has held that nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe,” she said.

“The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage, but that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed.”

Quite so, and it was on this issue of compelled speech which the United States Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Colorado baker back in June. It is good to see the right to freedom of expression upheld by the highest courts on both sides of the Atlantic.

After the ruling, Lee said: “I’m very confused about what this actually means.

It means you cannot demand that a business or service provider promotes political messages with which they fundamentally disagree, even if you’re gay.

We need certainty when you go to a business.

Yeah? Try getting a delivery date from a sofa company.

I’m concerned that this has implications for myself and for every single person.

Indeed it does. It means everyone must now be fully aware business owners cannot be forced to express opinions via their work with which they do not agree. If this concerns you, perhaps take a look at your own behaviour.

The original decision to turn down his order had left him feeling like a “second-class citizen”, he said.

A little bit like how I feel whenever I try to open a bank account or buy a bed. But making people feel bad isn’t illegal.

Lee said he would be considering his options, which could involve appealing to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.

So who’s paying for this? Ah:

Michael Wardlow, the head of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said it had spent £250,000 supporting Lee’s appeal. It will now have to pay costs.

The British taxpayer, that’s who’s paying. Little wonder Lee has pursued this with enthusiasm; if he was paying £250 an hour for lawyers from his own pocket he would probably have just gone to a different bakery.

He said: “We are very disappointed. This judgment leaves a lack of clarity in equality law. Our understanding of certainty of the law has been overturned.

On the contrary, it has provided some much-needed clarity. That your taxpayer-funded, government department decided it had won the culture wars, and erroneously though people could be forced by law into saying things they didn’t want to, is a consequence of your own arrogance.

The supreme court seems to see this as something that should be done on a case-by-case basis.

And you seem incapable of reading a judgement.

A spokesperson for the gay rights organisation Stonewall said: “This is a backward step for equality which needs to be urgently addressed. The decision that Ashers bakery were not discriminatory in the so-called ‘gay cake’ row is very concerning for anyone who cares about equality.”

But very uplifting for anyone who cares about liberty. Now I don’t like Peter Tatchell much, not least because he seems keen to force LGBQT madness on Russians, but he’s spot on here:

But the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, said: “This verdict is a victory for freedom of expression. As well as meaning that Ashers cannot be legally forced to aid the promotion of same-sex marriage, it also means that gay bakers cannot be compelled by law to decorate cakes with anti-gay marriage slogans.

“Although I profoundly disagree with Ashers’ opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be forced to facilitate a political idea that they oppose. The ruling does not permit anyone to discriminate against LGBT people. Such discrimination rightly remains unlawful.”

Indeed.

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22 thoughts on “Supreme Courts 2, Political Activists 0

  1. “We need certainty when you go to a business.”

    “Waitrose customer service? Yes, I went in yesterday and there were NO FRESH BAGUETTES! How dare you! Don’t you realise I need certainty?”

  2. I wonder if the gay advocates would be happy if a gay baker was *required* required to write on a cake “Homosexuality is a sin” because a customer asked for it.

    Because if they win, then that’s what they’ll have signed up for.

    They haven’t even thought through the logic of their own position.

  3. @Chester Draws: they make the error common to all left wing groups of believing they will always be in power, all the time, and therefore this would never be used against them.

  4. >The original decision to turn down his order had left him feeling like a “second-class citizen”, he said.

    How do you think the people you persecuted felt when you and a government department tried to force them, against their will, to make a cake celebrating something they strongly disagree with? First-class citizens?

    And how do you think they felt when you took them to court? Extra-special-with-cherries-on-top loved-and-cherished first-class citizens? Or third-class citizens whose beliefs are treated with contempt?

  5. Chester, they have thought through this. Anything like ‘Homosexuality is a sin’ will be classed as hate speech, and against the law. They are drawing the boundaries around speech using various methods, so that in the end only some things can be said.

  6. Tatchell is for me a rare exception to my dislike of fervent campaigners, he certainly puts himself out there and on occasion in danger for his beliefs and is not blind to opposing opinions.

  7. @thud you’ve just beaten me to it. I’ve read a number of pieces by or about Peter Tatchell over the years and I can’t help but admire him for his bravery and most of his principles.

  8. The real scandal is that two lower courts got the decision wrong in the first place. How the hell are such judges appointed? Is it the same way as the rest of the public sector, by making the right progressive noises?

  9. “It means everyone must now be fully aware business owners cannot be forced to express opinions via their work with which they do not agree. If this concerns you, perhaps take a look at your own behaviour.”

    Another point of interest in this and similar cases (I believe there have been several across the English-speaking world) is that this was initially presented in the media as an innocent gay bloke wanting a cake, who then found himself accidentally dealing with recalcitrant bigots who discriminated against him. The same applies to that gay couple who turned up at a B&B and were denied a room.

    In fact, what happens is that the same lawyers and campaigners who pushed through the “equality” legislation then carefully choose areas where they think they will encounter prejudice, so they can use the law to humiliate and ruin those who disagree with them.

    I wonder why, say, the BBC and the Guardian don’t make this point very clear?

    Punishing people because they do no more than disagree with you is a revolting trait. I think most Brits are OK with “Live and Let Live”, but I really hope that there is a spectacular backlash against the thought-police and the fascists who want to control others.

  10. I wonder what would happen if someone asked a baker to put the message “Moslems must die” on the cake? Presumably the baker would have to report a hate crime while being sued for preventing freedom of speech?

  11. “featuring the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie”

    I saw a picture of said cake, but I want to know what permissions did the aggrieved (aka the ‘gays denied’) get to use the image? There is a thing called copyright law, or is it automatically waved in the case of promoting a ‘gay message.’

    Maybe they sought permission from whoever owns Sesame Street, or perhaps they just assumed as it vaguely looked like them their cake was good to go.

    PS: I write this from the position of someone who once had a call from Disney’s lawyers because a stupid sub-editor on the paper where I worked put a caption of ‘Mickey Mouse’ on a photo of a man in a costume that looked like a drowned rat. I had to be ever so sorry and arrange to print an apology to Disney for something that was nothing to do with my department. Perhaps had the sub put the caption a ‘gay Mickey Mouse’ there would have been no call.

    Funny old world.

  12. @ Chester:

    You’re making the mistake of assuming the law would be applied even-handedly. It wouldn’t: these situations are always one rule for the designated victim groups and another rule for the designated oppressor groups, and there’s no reason why that would be different when it comes to baking cakes.

  13. I think this is less an issue of freedom of expression (although it is that) and more an issue of legal overreach. Ashers refused to provide the service he asked for, so he took his custom elsewhere. A bakery that is prepared to provide the service he wants gets his money and goodwill, and a bakery that isn’t prepared to provide the service doesn’t get either. The market worked in this case. Where is the harm that needs legal remedy?

    Full disclosure: I’m in favour of legalising gay marriage and I live in Northern Ireland.

  14. How does Mr. Lee know he was being discriminated because he was gay, anyway? Because he said he was? Because he had Abba on his iPod? Even if he’d stripped down in the bakery and started buggering his boyfriend that doesn’t prove he was gay beyond all reasonable doubt, surely? Maybe he was just experimenting? Or are all gay people supposed to wear lanyards saying they are gay, and that the government says so too?

    There are a lot of slippery slopes involved here.

  15. How much of our modern inanities are simply explained by the fact that we live in a gilded age? An age blessedly free of a world war. One that has enjoyed declining rates of violence, poverty, hunger, and (at least in the West) pollution. One that has seen nearly every communist power collapse under their internal contradictions. A poor Westerner has luxuries that emperors 100 years past couldn’t dream of.

    We seek conflict because we are comfortable. Our comfort blinds us to the real threats to our continued luxurious living. I don’t think we’re mature enough as a species to handle the speed in which our lives have improved.

    As a result…gay cakes are a “thing” that are discussed by “serious” people, including the highest courts in our nations. I honestly don’t know if I should be happy or distraught, or both.

  16. There are a lot of slippery slopes involved here.

    Quite, starting with the notion that being gay is an immutable, identifiable physical characteristic rather than a pattern of behaviour. That’s certainly the received wisdom, but there’s ample evidence that it’s neither universally true nor that simple. Getting gayness defined as equivalent to skin colour was a necessary first step for this lawfare to succeed, though.

  17. I’m glad someone else has picked up the compelled speech argument, this needs to be a new line in the war against the left’s march through the institutions.

    The problem is that its hard to get people who aren’t politically engaged to understand it, which is why Jordan Peterson got so vilified and not just by the hard left when he stood against the Canadian government. Most people understand a freedom of speech argument but people should also have the right not to speak.

    Andrew M,

    “The real scandal is that two lower courts got the decision wrong in the first place. How the hell are such judges appointed?”

    I agree, this was always going to end up in the SC but it should have been unanimous all the way up. The left will find succour in the decisions of the lower courts and just blame it on an out of touch SC.

  18. The real scandal is that two lower courts got the decision wrong in the first place.

    I suspect judges in the lower courts (both in the US and UK) have worked out they can grandstand and let it go to the upper courts for the final say. If this keeps up we might as well dispense with the lower courts for anything politically sensitive.

  19. @Briffa
    There are a lot of slippery slopes involved here.

    Quite. For example, if one member of a lesbian couple finds out that for the last year her partner was identifying as a man when they were together in bed, can she sue xir for rape?

  20. Correct verdict at last. Will EHRC stafff involved and Gareth Lee be paying legal costs of both sides? Thought not, abolish EHRC.

    If Gareth Lee et al want to sue a private firm/person pay or find a pro-bono lawyer

    Good article from Gay man

    Finally, if a supplier does not like/respect you or want your money, why would you want to buy from them?

  21. As an actual out gay man that lives with a rather cute 24 year old guy, all I can say is that this is a pile of fucking horseshit. The activists went out of their way to create this situation and the use of “Lawfare” against the bakers is typical of the sort of thing which makes me ashamed to be gay.

    The perspective of Free Speech and Forced Speech is absolutely correct and I agree with the UK Supreme Court’s decision wholeheartedly and without reservation.

    If this bullshit hadn’t been funded by the taxpayer then a lot of decent people would have been able to sleep a lot better at night. My heart goes out to the bakers, they didn’t ask for this and they certainly didn’t deserve this (the “punishment is the process” I mean).

  22. @John Galt on October 13, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    I’m sure you’re in the majority. Sadly all we here from are the hysterical grievance seekers.

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