We have read the Ashers judgement and the press coverage and what conclusions are we to draw from it? Can I refuse the services my business offers on grounds of LGBGT+ people being who they are and is this the moment that the LGBGT+ community become victims?
It strikes me that the key issue is the service I offer and it is very important we see this in perspective. If I am a printer of baker or even a florist my task is to create something that transmits a message to other people and that is generally one that affirms the view of the customer. Therefore I can separate the person from the message. However if I am a clergyman being asked to marry a gay person my actions affirm or deny that person’s identity. Again If I am a tailor I couldn’t refuse to make a gay man a suit because he was gay but it seems from the judgement that I can refuse to make a coat that has support gay marriage across the back.
How is this a threat to gay rights? It is just a confirmation that you can’t make me say things I don’t want to say and affirm views I oppose. Mr Lee expressed his concern at the decision, saying: “I’m concerned not just for the implications for myself and other gay people, but for every single one of us.” But why? Are we to be subjected to a legal system that tells us what to say and think like Nazi Germany or North Korea and the controller of that of course it only ever going to be the group in the ascendance. I will as a christian tell any gay person that they are made in the image of God and are there by precious and to be valued, but you can no more require me to affirm your life choices than could a convicted criminal. The person is special and to be loved and valued but we are more than our sexual life choices.
This judgement restores sanity and protects people in that they can now operate within their own value system, gay, Christian, muslim and Jew. I agree with Lady Hale who said: “The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage, but that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed.”
We must be very careful this is not a case that Christians can cart blanche refuse to deliver services to the LGBGT+ community and anyone that thinks it is will come unstuck, this is a victory against those that think they can make me say what they want me to say. So as a logical extension of the judgement; can I stop a school making my child write an essay on the positive nature of gay marriage, and can I stop my church and diocese from requiring me to have a clergy person in post that supports gay marriage or is least sympathetic to it who may give the impression by what they say and write that this is my view as well? The lid is now of a box that will cause a greater need to rely on case-law and more confusion. Over to the courts and Lady Hale for more help and guidance.