Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has admitted he was wrong to support the legal campaign against a Northern Ireland bakery that refused to bake a cake with a message supporting gay marriage.
Writing in today’s Guardian, the veteran campaigner says that while he disagrees with the opinions of Ashers’ bakery, the ruling against them was a “step too far” and there is “no evidence” they refused to bake the cake due to the sexuality of the customer who asked for it.
This finding of political discrimination against Lee [the customer] sets a worrying precedent. Northern Ireland’s laws against discrimination on the grounds of political opinion were framed in the context of decades of conflict. They were designed to heal the sectarian divide by preventing the denial of jobs, housing and services to people because of their politics. There was never an intention that this law should compel people to promote political ideas with which they disagreed.
He adds that if Christian bakers can be forced to print messages promoting something with which they profoundly disagree then the law must apply to other people too:
The judge concluded that service providers are required to facilitate any “lawful” message, even if they have a conscientious objection. This raises the question: should Muslim printers be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Or Jewish ones publish the words of a Holocaust denier? Or gay bakers accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? If the Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far-right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes or print posters with bigoted messages.
Breitbart London reported earlier this morning how The Guardian‘s sister paper, The Observer, is to close comments on articles about race, immigration and Islam in a bid to counter “an unacceptable level of toxic commentary on our website”.
In an opinion piece yesterday, the paper’s “readers’ editor” Stephen Pritchard claimed “we are living in an age of rage” with people angry “with government, with media, with religion, with migration, with Europe, [and] with big business”.
The comments on Peter Tatchell’s piece are open, but a note at the end of the article from earlier in the day says they will be “launched later this morning”.