Ashers on October 10, a case from Northern Ireland that has attracted widespread attention. Amy and Daniel McArthur, who ran the bakery, refused — citing their religious opposition as evangelical Christians to gay marriage.
Lee took the bakery to the Northern Ireland County Court.
Now the Supreme Court has reversed that decision, ruling that Lee was not discriminated against. Ashers is not the only case where the religious liberty of Christians has come into conflict with the rights and interests of gay and lesbian people. Hallthe UK Supreme Court upheld the complaint of a gay couple who had been refused a double room by a Christian couple who ran a bed and breakfast.
By contrast, in Phillips v. Craig and Mullins relevant because it considered many of the same issuesthe US Supreme Court in June June sided with a baker who told a gay couple that he would not supply a cake for their forthcoming wedding.
Lots of people — gay, straight and bisexual — support gay marriage, the court pointed out, and hence a message in favour of it was not a proxy for any particular sexual orientation.
While support for gay marriage is not a proxy for a person being gay, many gay and lesbian people do identify — and perhaps uniquely identify — with the cause of same-sex marriage, so there is a strong association for them at least.
By contrast, in the Phillips v. Craig and Mullins wedding cake case, the US Supreme Court explicitly defended Phillips on the basis of his freedom of religion, a right the American court has historically interpreted with a great deal of latitude. As McArthur stated during the original case at the County Court:. That is not merely a fanciful hypothesis.
In protecting the McArthurs from compelled speech, the UK Supreme Court demonstrated a characteristically liberal concern with the value of individual conscience.
Inand still today, same-sex marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland. Consequently, there is also the wider issue of the public recognition of same-sex relationships. So while the case will remain controversial for many, it has raised fundamental questions about the public place of religion, freedom of expression, the value of civic equality, and the rights of gay and lesbian people.
Doubtless the ruling will be pondered and debated for many years to come. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.