Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Asher’s Bakery over whether they were allowed to refuse to bake a cake bearing the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’. They agreed that Asher’s would have happily served other products to gay people and would have refused to make a cake bearing that slogan for anyone, gay or straight. The issue was the message, not the identity of the people being served.
Though I support gay marriage, I believe the Supreme Court has clearly made the right decision. I have written before about this issue: it would be bizarre to have a country in which you could happily refuse to print some political slogans (e.g. Support Brexit / Support Remain) but were compelled to print others. And a law which meant you had to print any message, however objectionable, has obvious problems.
To sum up why, I’m going to quote Peter Tatchell, the prominent gay rights campaigner, who I found out recently was arguing a similar thing to me only far more eloquently:
The judge concluded that service providers are required to facilitate any “lawful” message, even if they have a conscientious objection. This raises the question: should Muslim printers be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Or Jewish ones publish the words of a Holocaust denier? Or gay bakers accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? If the Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far-right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes or print posters with bigoted messages.
In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas.