A bakery in Northern Ireland has caused quite a stir this week by refusing to bake a cake. A customer requested for a cake with an image of Bernie and Ernie from Sesame Street, holding hands bearing the slogan Support Gay Marriage. The customer also requested for the logo for Queer Space, a gay bisexual and transgender volunteer organisation to be on the cake.

However, the bakery rejected the order on the grounds the cake went ‘against the director’s religious beliefs.’ Asher’s Bakery Co.’s is a Christian bakery. The company itself is named after a verse from Genesis in the bible. Queer Space is fighting for the legalisation of gay marriage in Northern Ireland.  It was argued, therefore, that making the cake would be ‘at odds with what the bible teaches’ and would endorse the campaign they strongly oppose.

Ashers Bakery Co. based in Newton Abbey is now facing legal action from the Equality Commission. The government agency has stated that refusing to make the cake amounted to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation towards the customer who placed the order. If the bakery fails to respond within seven days, it faces being taken to court.

…the bakery rejected the order…

Bert&ErnieWas the bakery it is right to refuse the Bernie and Ernie cake? Was the customer naïve to expect an openly Christian business to bake a ‘gay’ cake? The bakery’s manager has said publicly the bakery has refused to make cakes in the past that go against their beliefs. He used the example of pornographic cakes and cakes with offensive language. The manager is ‘convinced [they] have made the right decision.’

Colin Hart, chief executive of the Christian Institute, strongly supports the bakery: ‘no one should be forced to use their creative skills to promote a cause which goes against their consciences.’ He continues to explain how this issue clearly demonstrates the failings of the government to protect those who back traditional marriage.

…The manager is convinced they have made the right decision…

As British citizens, one has the right to freedom of expression and speech. Is this refusal an example of such expression? Or, as the commission and others believe, it is in fact a clear breach of the Equality Act?

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where gay marriage is not legal. It is a heavily debated issue. In the past two years, the legalisation of gay marriage has been taken to the Northern Assembly three times. While the gap between those in favour and those not has decreased, the proposal was rejected in April.  Once again, it is being challenged later this year.

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