Employment News Update – Gay marriage cake case has lessons for all employers

Makbool Javaid, Partner and Head of Employment Law examines the facts and legal principles arising in the Norther Ireland Court of Appeal’s ruling in Lee v McArthur and Ashers Baking Company Ltd. The Court of Appeal upheld a County Court ruling that the refusal of a bakery to provide a cake with the message “Support Gay Marriage”, because the bakery owners are Christians and oppose the introduction of same-sex marriage in NI as they believe it is contrary to God’s law, was discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and political opinion. In addition, the Court rejected Asher’s argument that its Article 9: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and Article 10: Freedom of expression, had been breached; Makbool explains why the Court held that neither Article can be interpreted as giving a person the right to directly discriminate against another because of their own religious belief. Makbool also considers the implications of the ruling within a workplace context as it reinforces the principle established in case law that one right does not take precedence over another. So, for example, the UK’s Court of Appeal held that a Council was entitled to require a Christian registrar to carry out civil partnership ceremonies even though same-sex relationships were against her religious beliefs.

This article first appeared in the CIPD People Management online magazine.

Link for CIPD Members

Link for non-CIPD Members: Lee v McArthur and Ashers Bakery (PDF)