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Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd and Others [2018] UKSC 49

The UK Supreme Court has held that a Belfast bakery refusing to provide a cake to a gay man with the message ‘support same sex marriage’ on it did not discriminate against him on grounds of sexual orientation or political belief.
Sexual Orientation
The Court found that the bakery did not refuse to fulfil the order because of the customer’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. The bakery objected to the message on the cake, not to the personal characteristics of the customer, nor anyone with whom he was associated.
Political Belief
The Court again stated that the bakery’s objection was not to the customer, but to the message itself. However, in this case it was arguable that the message was not able to be treated as distinct from the customer’s political beliefs. The Court considered the European Convention rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 9 ECHR) and freedom of expression (Article 10). The latter includes the right not to be obliged to manifest beliefs a person does not hold. At paragraph 55 of the judgment the Court said:
‘The bakery could not refuse to provide a cake – or any other of their products – to Mr. Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage. But that important fact does not amount to a justification for something completely different – obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagree.’
The Court went on to hold that the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal ought to have forwarded the Attorney General’s reference to the Supreme Court, received after judgment had been handed down but before the final order issued.
A significant amount of commentary has been afforded to the case and its potential impacts. Some political reaction gathered by the Belfast Telegraph can be found here, an article from the BBC website here and an article from the UK Human Rights blog here.

Discrimination, Local Developments