Monday’s ruling that Ashers Bakery were guilty of discrimination for refusing to bake a ‘gay cake’ has been lauded by many as a victory over religious bigotry, but today’s opinion columns tell a different story…
Here’s a selection of the some of the responses circulating on the web today.
Irish Times, Fionola Meredith
“Do you believe in freedom of conscience? Do you believe that individuals, businesses and institutions should be able to decide for themselves which political messages they wish to support?
If so, then you should be appalled at the decision by Belfast’s Court of Appeal that Ashers, a bakery run by an evangelical Christian family, was guilty of direct discrimination against Gareth Lee, a gay rights activist who requested a cake with the slogan ‘support gay marriage’ iced on it.”
Telegraph.co.uk, Neil Meredith
“I am a gay man. I support equality under the law for people of all sexual and gender inclinations. More to the point, I love cake. Nonetheless, I’m siding with the Christians. This gay plaintiff is wrong; the law is wrong. Nobody should be forced by law to bake anybody else a cake. Ever.”
Independent.co.uk, Peter Tatchell
“This verdict is a defeat for freedom of expression. As well as meaning that Ashers can be legally forced to aid the promotion of same-sex marriage, it also implies that gay bakers could be forced by law to decorate cakes with homophobic slogans.
Although I strongly disagree with Ashers opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be compelled to facilitate a political idea that they oppose.”
The Guardian, Editorial
“It may seem that writing in icing on a cake is a trivial form of expression compared to, say, writing in a national newspaper. But it is still the clear expression of an opinion, and that is something that should not be compelled any more than it should be suppressed.
“The medium does not here affect the message. Suppose the bakery had been approached to produce a cake iced with the old Paisleyite slogan ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’. Most decent people would applaud a refusal to reproduce such bigotry. Yet from the perspective of free speech, the principle is exactly the same.
“If free speech is not the right to be wrong it means nothing at all. Everyone has the right to their opinion but there is no right to compel other people to amplify or even reproduce it.”
The Economist, Erasmus
“There are good historic reasons why Northern Ireland has a relatively weak free-speech culture. So much harm has been done in the recent past by strong expressions of religious antipathy that local jurisprudence tends to err on the side of muzzling perceived extremism.
But whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular case, the cause of free expression needs people like Mr Tatchell, who is so commendably prepared to protect people’s right to take stances that he finds deplorable and offensive.”
Irish Independent, Suzanne Breen
“For those who see Gareth Lee as a champion, and the McArthurs as the baddies, imagine this scenario. A gay person is working in a Belfast bakery when a customer comes in and orders a cake for an evangelical Christian function.
“He asks that it be decorated with a marzipan man and woman and the slogan, ‘Oppose gay marriage’. The shop assistant politely declines. He says he can’t, in conscience, fulfil the order. He is hauled before the courts on discrimination charges.
“Those now denouncing Ashers would hail that gay shop assistant as a hero. That’s the hypocrisy at the heart of this whole matter.”
John O’Doherty, Rainbow Project
“We do not believe that this matter should have been brought to court.
“We believe that Ashers bakery should have accepted the Equality Commission’s invitation to engage in mediation, where a remedy could have been found without the expense and division surrounding this court case.”
The Outmost/ GCN
We took a straw poll at the office and it provoked quite a heated debate. The majority of staff (by a ratio of 5:1) consider the ruling to be a good thing, with one lone dissenter dismissing the verdict as a “curtailing of personal freedom.”
But never mind us – what’s your opinion? Is the Asher’s verdict a victory for LGBT rights or a dangerous curtailing of personal freedoms? Let us know in the comments.
© 2016 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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