In a highly anticipated Supreme Court decision, it was held that there was no direct discrimination by Ashers Bakery against Mr Lee for refusing to decorate a cake with the message “Support Gay Marriage”.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal in finding that there was no direct discrimination on the grounds of Mr Lee’s sexual orientation. Instead, the Supreme Court found that the bakery objected “to the message, not the messenger” and that “support for gay marriage is not a proxy for any particular sexual orientation”.
The Court also considered the European Convention of Human Rights, in particular Article 9, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and Article 10, the right to freedom of expression. It found that although the bakery could not refuse to provide a cake to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or because he supported marriage, this could not be extended to oblige the bakery to decorate a cake with a message with which they profoundly disagree.
Although not an employment case, it demonstrates the nuanced approach that needs to be taken when looking at any claim for discrimination. It also highlights the cross-over between discrimination in employment, and discrimination in relation to goods and services - both being areas on which we can advise.