Claims of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, political opinion and religious belief were brought against the owners of the bakery because they refused to sell Mr Lee, a gay customer, a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage.” The County Court and Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland found against the bakery and held that Mr Lee had been discriminated against.
Today however five Justices of the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Mr and Mrs McArthur, the owners of the bakery, did not discriminate against him.
The Court held that the bakers did not refuse the order because of the sexual orientation of the customer, rather they refused the order because of the message on the cake: “they would have refused to make such a cake for any customer, irrespective of their sexual orientation.” It remains the case that a supplier cannot refuse to supply a cake because someone is gay or because they support gay marriage.
In the circumstances of this particular case, it said: “The objection was to the message, not the messenger”.
The Court further found that, under Articles 9 and 10 of European Convention on Human Rights, the McArthurs had the right not to be forced to express a religious belief that they did not believe.
The effects of this decision will be felt most greatly in the commercial sphere – by both the customer and service provider.