Alliance MLA Stephen Farry says he hopes lessons are learnt after the Ashers bakery firm lost its appeal against a ruling its refusal to make a cake backing marriage equality was discriminatory, adding it was regrettable the case ended up in court in the first instance.
Court of Appeal judges ruled the company was not allowed to provide a service only to people who agreed with their religious beliefs. The case arose after bakers refused to make a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”, saying it was against their religious beliefs.
Dr Farry said the ruling was welcome in clarifying the existing law and legal protections against discrimination.
“In its judgement, the Court of Appeal is clear suppliers of services cannot distinguish on prohibited grounds between those who may or may not receive a service. The supplier can decide whether or not to provide a service, but in short they must apply to all or apply it to none.
“However, it is a pity the issues involved in this issue could not have been resolved through mediation. It is important people respect and acknowledge the views and beliefs of everyone in society, while recognising freedom of religion, as well as freedom from religion.
“For those who would advocate changes in the law, it is worth noting equality legislation is already finely balanced and provides for exemptions around ‘genuine occupational requirements’ or ‘genuine service requirements’. However, they are not relevant or appropriate in this case.
“I hope lessons are learnt following this case. Every person should be treated equally regarding provision of goods, facilities and services, irrespective of their background or beliefs. Today’s ruling underlines that.”