The case involving a Belfast-based Christian bakery who refused to ice a ‘gay cake’ in support of same-sex marriage has been referred to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The ‘Gay Cake’ case started in 2014 when Gareth Lee, a member of the LGBT+ advocacy group QueerSpace, ordered a cake from the Northern Irish bakery featuring Sesame Street muppets Bert and Ernie for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
Mr Lee’s order was accepted at first and he had paid in full. But he was then contacted by the company and was informed that they would not make a cake with the message requested due to religious reasons.
In the original court case, District Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled religious beliefs could not dictate the law and ordered the firm to pay damages of £500. Ashers claimed that they never had an issue with Mr Lee’s sexuality, but with the message in support of same-sex marriage.
Ashers went on to win an appeal at the UK Supreme Court which ruled its actions were not discriminatory.
Mr Lee’s latest legal bid will argue that the Supreme Court “failed to give appropriate weight” to him under the European Convention of Human Rights.
In a statement, Mr Lee’s solicitor said the latest legal bid “does not directly implicate the owners of Ashers bakery or challenge their right to privately hold religious/political views.
“Instead the case will be against the United Kingdom, a member state of the European Court,” the statement read.
It added: “The latest hearings will attempt to challenge that ruling at the highest human rights court in Europe, citing the Supreme Court failed to give appropriate weight to Mr Lee’s rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.
“The Supreme Court ruling blurred the line, creates legal uncertainty for all of us in Northern Ireland, and the ECHR is the appropriate place to clarify this issue.”
Mr Lee added that he would argue the rights of business owners to hold their own religious beliefs.
“I have my own beliefs. But that’s not what my case has ever been about,” he said.
“This is about limited companies being somehow able to pick and choose which customers they will serve.
“It’s such a dangerous precedent.”
© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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