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26 June 2015 0 Comments
Posted in Employment, Opinion

If I knew you were coming I’d have backed a cake…

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

In a case which has engendered considerable publicity, the County Court for Northern Ireland has delivered Judgment on whether or not there had been breaches of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 and article 3 of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 in the case of Lee v Ashers Bakery Co Ltd and others.

A customer had requested a specific message on a cake which had been ordered which was in support of gay marriage. The manager cancelled the order and the customer complained that they should not be permitted to refuse service on the grounds of sexual orientation. The bakery’s argument was that it was not discriminating against the customer because of her sexuality but because of the message on the cake.

The Judge found that the two directors of the bakery were guilty of direct discrimination for which there would be no justification and breaches of the aforementioned regulations in their failure to provide goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation and public opinion.

It was also held that, as the bakery was a commercial venture, they could not rely on the statutory exemption for organisations in relation to religious belief highlighting that there was no reference to promoting religious values within the bakery’s Memorandum and Articles of Association. What has become known as the “gay cake row” had prompted a proposal to include a so called “conscience clause” in equality legislation – which has already attracted political input from Westminster.

This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.

For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222.

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