This Amazing Bert & Ernie Gay Wedding Cake Is At The Center Of A Sweet Gay Rights Victory In Northern Ireland
It was a sweet victory on Tuesday when the Belfast high court handed down a landmark discrimination decision. The court ruled that Ashers Baking Company discriminated against Gareth Lee by denying his order for a cake featuring — get this — Bert and Ernie with a pro-gray marriage slogan. The judge determined that the Christian family must have known Lee's sexual orientation and chose not to serve him.
Ashers, which is owned by a devout Christian family, reversed an earlier agreement to fill Lee's order for a private party last July. A government equality commission gave the bakery the chance to apologize to Lee before it brought the suit, but Ashers chose a "David and Goliath" legal battle instead. The cake, thankfully, was baked by another bakery more amenable to civil rights and Sesame Street.
This is a particularly notable win for Northern Ireland. It is the only country in the U.K. that does not allow same-sex marriages, with repeated pushes to legalize them through a referendum shut down. Judge Isobel Brownlie noted that though the owners were religious, spreading frosting does not also give you the right to spread your beliefs. Both parties agreed on a £500 fine paid to Lee.
"The defendants have unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff on grounds of sexual discrimination," Brownlie said. "This is direct discrimination for which there is no justification."
Ashers' general manager David McArthur said that he was disappointed with the judgment.
We’ve said from the start that our issue was with the message on the cake, not the customer and we didn’t know what the sexual orientation of Mr. Lee was, and it wasn’t relevant either. We’ve always been happy to serve any customers that come into our shops.
(Any customer, that is, except the sweet-toothed gay community.)
The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign no matter how much they disagree with it. Or as the Equality Commission has suggested, they should perhaps just close down, and that can’t be right. But we won’t be closing down, we certainly don’t think we’ve done anything wrong and we will be taking legal advice to consider our options for appeal.
Meanwhile, voters in the Republic of Ireland could be the first country to legalize same-sex marriage with a popular vote set for Friday. If all goes well, I know a good bakery to order celebration cakes from...
Images: Facebook/QueerSpace Belfast, Getty Images