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Why cake row has shown real hunger for a bit more common sense

By Lindy McDowell

Published 01/04/2015

Food for thought: the gay cake case has created an angry debate over human rights
Food for thought: the gay cake case has created an angry debate over human rights

It's probably fair to say that most of us could point to a cake we wouldn't want to ice. Some of us might even say the whole idea of icing slogans - outside of the usual Happy Birthday personal greetings sort of thing - is a bit weird anyway. As a vegetarian I think I'd have to lay down my icing gun before scrawling support for say, fox hunting.

You may baulk at a different message. Then again you may be of the I'd-ice-anything-persuasion. But that's as it should be. Equality doesn't mean we all have to think the same. As that grating television ad aimed at encouraging playground diversity puts it: "Difference. It's what makes us you and me."

At the time of writing there has, as yet, been no verdict returned on what we have all taken to calling, in our grammatically incorrect way, the gay cake.

For the record I am absolutely 100% in favour of gay marriage. But I also think the gay cake row is a nonsense that has trivialised and demeaned an important debate. Nobody comes out of it well - this infantile food fight over two muppets and accompanying slogan in fondant icing.

What's at stake is bigger than the message on the cake. What's at stake is whether people should be forced to write or say things they don't agree with. As someone who believes in freedom of expression I have to accept that includes the icing on the cake.

The one thing we do know - whatever the judgement - is that the gay cake row will rumble on. We have each taken our separate stance on either side of the great cake plate divide and nobody is prepared to offer a single crumb of compromise. The argument, like the cake itself, has long gone stale. And now, coming up on the inside track, there's this new campaign for a "conscience clause". Another nonsense. It's being tried in southern states in America, which is probably where our local campaign found inspiration.

It's not a conscience clause we need around here. It's not more daft laws, rules, bans or court precedent on what constitutes equality in icing. It's a bit of common sense. A bit of common decency. A bit of respect for each other.

I think you win an argument by pointing out the strength and right of your own case and the flaws in your opponents. I don't think you do it by name-calling, insult, pettiness, bullying and harassment. (See also the debate re: abortion.)

The gay cake hasn't just created division. It's created a nasty mix. Among those who attended a rally in Belfast before the gay cake case came to court were a couple of B&B owners who'd hit the headlines after they'd refused to allow a gay couple to spend the night in the same room in their establishment.

There was nothing trivial about that row. That was discrimination, pure and simple. The B&B couple portray themselves as victimised because of their religious beliefs. They refused to allow the two men to share a bed (indeed a room) on the grounds that they were against gay sex.

They were in the wrong. That was homophobia. Without wishing to preach, homophobia may be God's way of telling you you're not cut out for a career in the hospitality industry.

The B&B case is, however, a world away from the cake case. But now it's all in the same "conscience clause" mixing bowl. A "conscience clause" that, should it become law, may well be turned and used against the very same religious groups it's supposed to defend.

More laws and bans and silly court cases are not the answer. We all just need to grow up a bit. Treat each other with more respect and (old-fashioned word alert) tolerance.

And while we're at it, we all need to remember the important thing about tolerance. Like the cake knife, it cuts both ways.

No doubt, Amanda is pushing her luck

“I’m the lucky one,” says Amanda Knox, newly acquitted by an Italian court of the murder of Meredith Kercher.

Now there’s understatement. Meredith lost her life in horrific circumstances. Her family and friends believe they still have not had justice.

One man was convicted of this savage crime. The court found he had two accomplices.

Amanda Knox initially implicated a totally innocent man, who spent time in prison.

He lost his business and his good name. Now, though, it’s being suggested la Knox may sue for compensation from the Italian state.

The lucky one indeed.

Feast of fun for ad firms to chew over

The election battle may be dry as dust but the world of advertising is making a meal of it.

After David Cameron, unwisely, opined that terms in office were like Shredded Wheat — two would be good, but three might be too much — the biscuit cereal capitalised with an ad challenging Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband as to whether could they handle three.

Other headline stories sparking food advertising response include the Lidl One Direction Easter Egg, discounted by a fifth after the departure of Zayn Malik, and the Snickers slogan: “You’re not you when you’re hungry”, tweeted in the aftermath of the Jeremy Clarkson row. Biting humour. Of sorts.

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