The UK Supreme Court has ruled that it is not discrimination for a self-reportedly Christian baker to refuse to bake and decorate a cake with the words “Support Gay Marriage” on it. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that refuses to legalise marriage between two gay people. In contrast, the Republic of Ireland approved gay marriage in a referendum in 2015. And although the Irish in the South have been known to be more Catholic than the pope, they are certainly more progressive than their Protestant neighbours to the North.
The Supreme Court argued that the bakers weren’t discriminating against the person who ordered the cake, they were exercising their free speech right in refusing to be forced to mouth something they did not believe in. They had the right to refuse to “say” something they could never mean. But were they being forced to mouth anything?
They would have been decorating the cake in the privacy of their bakery. They weren’t making a forced public announcement of their support for gay marriage when in fact they don’t support it.
Consider the implications. Does this now mean that if a printer objects to the message of a book, pamphlet or leaflet, they can refuse to print it? Probably. After all, publishers refuse to print lots of stuff by would-be authors, and that’s never been flagged as discrimination. Just editorial judgement.
Suppose we reverse the discrimination. If an atheist baker refused to bake and decorate a cake with a Christian cross on it, wouldn’t that be regarded as a bit odd? In fact, something like this actually happened. The photographic agency hired to take pictures of the Christian owners of this bakery after their Supreme Court victory in the “gay cake” case, has refused to hand over the images, saying the company was “standing up against discrimination”. They refunded the fee instead. Was that ok?
I think it’s impossible and unreasonable to stamp out every incident and expression of discrimination and bigotry. Every individual will have his or her own pride and prejudices, and there should be some wiggle room within the law for them to say what they think, or refuse to say what they don’t agree with.
So honestly, as a gay person, I am not vastly concerned if some high street baker won’t bake me a gay cake. There are plenty of other bakers. But the baker who discriminates against me shouldn’t be surprised to get some push-back. I certainly wouldn’t dream of giving them my business again, or buying so much as a crumb of their produce, and I’d tell everyone I know about it so they could do the same.
The photographic agency admitted its action was tit for tat. Well, that’s the only way bigots will learn that there are consequences for discriminating recklessly against people their religion teaches them to hate. I think the Supreme Court was being realistic in supporting their right to refuse business, and I can see how piping icing in the words “Support Gay Marriage” would grate on their bible-thumping nerves, but the corollary is we have a right to withhold our patronage of their business, because of how they treat us.
They have a right to their opinion. And we have a right to react to it appropriately, by expressing criticism and boycotting their business.