The ECHR decision closes the case of the bakery refusing to make a cake with a message supporting gay-marriage because of its “Christian beliefs“.
On January 6, the European Court of Human Rights ruled the “gay-marriage-cake case” as inadmissible. The decision is final, the Court states.
The case concerned the refusal by a Christian-run bakery in Belfast to make a cake with the words “Support Gay Marriage” and the QueerSpace logo.
In 2014, the bakery refused to make the cake asked by the customer for a gay activist event because it was a “Christian business“. The owners apologized and refunded the client. The event was taking place not long after the Northern Irish Assembly had narrowly rejected legalizing same-sex marriage for the third time.
Same-sex marriage became legal in 2020 in Northern Ireland while it was enacted in the rest of the United Kingdom in 2014.
In 2015, the bakery was found guilty of discrimination by the County Court because owners didn’t have the right to manifest their religious beliefs in business when it was contrary to the rights of others.
UK Supreme Court ruled that the bakers’ objection was not on the client but the message
The Court of Appeal upheld the decision in 2016, noting the possibility for arbitrary abuse if businesses were free to choose what services to provide to the gay community on the basis of religious belief.
However, the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest judicial body, overturned the decision two years later. It ruled that the bakers’ objection was to the message on the cake, not to any personal characteristics of the messenger, or anyone with whom he was associated.
A complaint was then lodged with the European Court of Human Rights in 2019. The plaintiff argued that the Supreme Court decision didn’t give appropriate considerations to the European Convention of Human Rights.
The Convention is an international treaty under which the member States of the Council of Europe promise to secure fundamental civil and political rights. Different from the European Union, the Council of Europe was created in 1949 to uphold human rights and democracy, for which the United Kingdom is a founding member.
But the ECHR said the plaintiff didn’t explicitly use the rights given by the Convention and was instead asking ECHR to usurp the role of the domestic Courts. Because he had failed to exhaust domestic remedies, the application was inadmissible.
The Rainbow Project, which supported the complaint, said the decision brought the case to a close. The Christian Institute, which supported the bakery owners through the Courts, said the outcome was “good news for free speech and good news for Christians“.