Belfast Telegraph

'Gay cake' case wastes all our time: I have no problem with gay marriage, but I do have a problem with frivolous lawsuits

By Mark Brotherston

Unless you've been avoiding the media, you'll have heard a great deal about a so-called "gay cake" recently.

The Equality Commission is taking legal action against a bakery which refused to decorate one of its products with the slogan 'Support Gay Marriage'.

Personally, I have no problem with gay marriage, but I do have a problem with frivolous and divisive lawsuits.

The commission claims it is going to court to "test the limits of the law". I don't believe that it's the commission's job, or a good use of public money, to see how far legislation can be stretched.

In fact, if the action is successful it could create a dangerous precedent.

Too many people have taken up a position on this dispute based on their views on gay marriage. I think that is too simplistic.

Under equality legislation businesses are not allowed to discriminate against people based on race, gender, sexuality and so on, when they provide goods and services.

We're entering dangerous territory if judges extend their interpretation of the law and oblige companies to support causes and campaigns with which their owners disagree.

The bakery, Ashers, are a family company run by Christians. You might not agree with their views about gay marriage, but they are sincerely held and they are entitled to hold them.

The Equality Commission performs some important functions in a divided society, but it is testing its own limits in this case.

Ironically, the court action is likely only to damage relations between the LGBT community and some groups of evangelical Christians.

Earlier this year the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission launched a probe into hard-working doctors and nurses in the health service, implying that problems with the service might comprise "human rights" violations. The "gay cake" case is straying into similarly silly territory.

Northern Ireland has a vast array of commissions, councils and quangos. They need to make sure they stick to doing their job, rather than wasting taxpayers' money with investigations and court cases of doubtful worth.

Mark Brotherston is a representative of NI Conservatives

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