A bakery in Northern Ireland could soon be subject to legal action for refusing to produce a cake that featured a picture of Sesame Street‘s Bert and Ernie and a “Support Gay Marriage” message. The Equality Commission has informed Asher’s Baking Company that it illegally discriminated by refusing the order. Northern Ireland has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation since 2006.
Daniel McArthur, Asher’s general manager, describes the company as being run “according to Christian values and beliefs, according to what the Bible teaches.” In a video released by The Christian Institute, which is providing the bakery with legal support, McArthur explained, “We thought that this order was at odds with our beliefs. It certainly was in contradiction of what the Bible teaches.” Watch it:
Asher’s provided a refund for the cake, and McArthur is convinced that they “made the right decision” to continue taking a stance against same-sex marriage. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom remaining where same-sex couples cannot marry.
The Christian Institute’s Director, Colin Hart, argues that “no one should be forced to use their creative skills to promote a cause which goes against their consciences. Imbalanced equality laws are making it increasingly hard for people, especially Christians.” But The Equality Commission’s letter counters that the bakery act “unlawfully and contrary to Regulation 5 of the Equality Act,” which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Christian Institute fought to overturn that law after it was passed, but a judge rejected their challenge in 2007, concluding, “I am satisfied that the Regulations do not treat evangelical Christians less favourably than others.”
The Equality Commission response “constitutes a letter of claim in consequence,” which invites Asher’s to respond with proposals to “remedy” its discrimination. Only after the bakery responds will the commission take any action.
QueerSpace Belfast, the organization that requested the cake, successfully found another bakery to produce it.