Case Review: Lee v Ashers Baking Company

Our in-house employment law expert, Kate gives an overview of a recent discrimination case and what the outcome means for you and your business.

Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd and others

Many people will be familiar with this case from Northern Ireland, which has recently been to the Supreme Court. Mr Lee asked Ashers Baking Company to bake a cake with a photograph of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street on it along with the wording “Support Gay Marriage”. Ashers Baking refused to make the case because the message went against their Christian beliefs. Although this is not an employment case, it clearly has a bearing on discrimination law and will be of great interest to employers.

Both the court at first instance and the Northern Irish Court of Appeal held that Ashers Baking had discriminated against Mr Lee on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, the Supreme Court has now overturned these earlier decisions.

The Supreme Court held that:

Ashers Baking did not refuse to make the cake specifically because of Mr Lee’s sexual orientation. It also held that the refusal was not because of his association with gay people because for this claim to be made out, it would have to relate to his association with specific gay people, not the gay community generally.

The Supreme Court also held that, under Human Rights laws, Ashers Baking could not be compelled to supply a cake iced with a political opinion which they did not agree with.

What does this mean for you?

This is an interesting turnaround and may have an impact on cases already decided in the UK including case law in which it has been held that employers can require employees to deliver services such as conducting gay marriage and civil partnership ceremonies or providing relationship mediation services even though that conflicts with their religious beliefs.

Defending your business against a claim can be time-consuming, stressful and expensive. We can do most of the hard work for you and reduce the stress and costs to you.

New Dawn Resources’ in-house legal expert, Kate can assess the claim and work with you to defend the claim and minimise the impact on you and your business.

For more information about our fixed fee legal advice service, click here, or call New Dawn Resources on 01484 680098 and we’ll be happy to help.