Belfast Telegraph

Gay cake verdict shows laws needed to allow for differing views, says DUP's Sammy Wilson

By John Porter

The Ashers verdict means the introduction of laws to accommodate differing views and rights is now "unavoidable", according to a leading member of the DUP.

Sammy Wilson said the ruling against the bakery company raised many questions and great concern across society.

The East Antrim MP added: "We should not create a situation where the rights of those with deeply held religious beliefs are lesser than the rights of people from the LGBT community.

"It is not only religious beliefs which have been impacted by the judgment, however, and no one knows exactly what impact the ruling will have in relation to the finding of discrimination on the grounds of political opinion."

The veteran politician added: "Whilst some will trumpet it as a victory for equality, it is not a victory for tolerance, but a clear example of liberal intolerance in action.

"It is not a sign of a healthy society where people cannot hold a point of view and express that view within their business activities.

"There can be little doubt that other businesses will find themselves before the courts in the future as the full impact of this judgement reveals itself."

Mr Wilson said the current law may please some people in our society "but it doesn't work".

"The ruling today is a symptom of that failure and the cases which will inevitably follow will only feed further resentment," he said.

"There is an unavoidable case for legislative change which can ensure that differing views and competing rights are accommodated.

"The case against Ashers demonstrates that the law has swung too far in Northern Ireland.

"It is out of step with public opinion and it is out of step with a society which should accommodate difference, instead of using the courts to impose uniformity."

Political opinion was divided following the verdict.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness tweeted: "Ashers bakery judgement a good result for equality, gay people have for far too long been discriminated against. We and the law are on their side."

John O'Doherty from gay rights group the Rainbow Project said that while some people might be sympathetic to the position in which the company finds itself, it does not change the facts.

"The judge clearly articulated that this is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification," he said.

Alliance MLA Stephen Farry said: "It is clear that every person should be treated equally irrespective of their background in terms of the provision of goods, facilities and services, and where businesses are at risk of being asked to process certain political messages that the owners may be uncomfortable with, they have the option of not doing any such messaging."

The SDLP described the ruling as "welcome and necessary".

"It is refortifying of our hard-won equality laws," said MLA Colum Eastwood.

"The case has generated a significant amount of civil and political interest and the determination of the court has restored confidence in the strength of legal protections for minority communities."

Sinn Fein MLA Caitriona Ruane added: "This is the right decision and confirms our view that everyone should be treated fairly and with equality.

"It is a good day for equality and a good day for everyone in our society.

"Now as we move forward from this judgment we must ensure that equality is extended to everyone, and that includes marriage equality for all."

TUV leader Jim Allister said the judge's decision would have profound ramifications on religious freedom and hoped for an appeal.

He added: "It is scandalous that a family owned business was dragged before the courts by a publicly funded quango and subjected to a year of torture.

"I congratulate the McArthur family on the dignity and grace they have displayed throughout this ordeal."

An Ulster Unionist Party spokesman added: "We are disappointed that this court case ever took place. The debate has been divisive and has served to increase distrust and prejudice.

"Northern Ireland society needs to be able to respect diversity in sexual orientation, whilst allowing those who hold deep religious convictions to exercise them within the law.

"If everyone had used a little common sense, this could have been resolved without fuss, never mind recourse to the courts."

Michael Wardlow, from the Equality Commission, said the ruling was "very robust, very clear".

"It sends out the signal confirming the law as we understood it," he said.

"It says to people who took part in commercial enterprises that they must act within the anti-discrimination framework."

Read more:

Tesco reviewing Ashers 'gay cake' judgement 

Everyone a loser in 'gay cake' row

Ashers verdict may be right in law, but it leaves deep unease 

Ashers 'gay cake' decision is a threat to our freedom of conscience 

'Gay cake': It's a ruling to rejoice in, but gays are still very afraid

Gay cake case: Branded law breakers by a court, but beaming McArthurs insist they have no regrets 

Gay cake verdict shows laws needed to allow for differing views, says DUP's Sammy Wilson 

Ashers 'gay cake' case made news all around the world 

By elevating icing on a cake to a major issue, gay rights activists won battle but lost the war  

Gay cake case: Churches united in criticism of 'dangerous' Ashers bakery decision

Ashers bakery couple: Guilty by law, but we're innocent in God's eyes 

Verdict was particularly disappointing for Christians, whose prayers weren't answered  

Ashers' customers divided on outcome of case  

Ashers Bakery lose 'gay cake' case: 'We will not be closing down, we have not done anything wrong' says boss

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