A clear majority of people in the rest of the UK oppose the Equality Commission’s legal action against Ashers Bakery, according to a poll by a leading pollster.
A YouGov poll of more than 2,000 adults across England, Scotland and Wales found that almost two thirds (65 per cent) of those surveyed objected to the bakery being taken to court for refusing to make a cake with the slogan ‘Support gay marriage’.
That figure was even higher than the percentage of people who said it was acceptable for the Newtownabbey firm to refuse to make the cake because of the owners’ Christian beliefs – 56 per cent of people believed it was acceptable for the bakery to refuse to make the cake.
That discrepancy appears to be in line with anecdotal evidence that some of those who support the legalisation of gay marriage believe that the Equality Commission should not take action against the bakery for refusing to, as it saw it, take part in that campaign by making the cake.
Likewise, just 25 per cent of people support the Equality Commission case, but a greater number – 33 per cent – believe that the refusal to make the cake is unacceptable.
YouGov said that it had conducted the poll of its own volition and was not paid to do so by any party involved in the case.
However, although the poll, which was conducted last week after the case made national headlines, found that most people support the bakery in this case, it found that most people oppose anti-gay discrimination in taxis, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and other services. Of each of those scenarios, the one where people were most likely (32 per cent) to support discrimination against gay people was where the owner of a bed and breakfast business believes that homosexuality is wrong.
The poll also found that in general, a majority of people (53 per cent) believe that the most appropriate way to change social or cultural behaviour which is now seen as old-fashioned is to wait for such behaviour to change over time. Just 24 per cent of people believe that it is right to legislate against such behaviour to make it illegal.
Meanwhile, the bakery’s manager, Daniel McArthur, has appealed for those who support its stance to donate money to the Christian Institute, the lobby group which is financially supporting its legal defence.
In a video posted on the group’s website, he said: “I want to thank the Christian Institute and all its supporters for your prayers and support for us. It’s been a strange and sometimes difficult time for me and my family. Not many people want to be at the centre of an international media storm.”
Meanwhile, a Christian organisation which has a DUP minister on its council of reference has called on the Equality Commission to drop its case against Ashers.
The Caleb Foundation, of which Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey is a long-time supporter, said that it had been “greatly disturbed” by the legal action against Ashers by a body “generously funded by the taxpayer”.
A statement from the group’s secretary, Congregational minister the Rev Philip Campbell, said: “As is obvious to any fair-minded person, it can be clearly seen from the incident which provoked the commission’s action that Ashers were not refusing to serve a customer because of their perceived sexual orientation, but because they were being asked to ice the cake with words which endorse a specific political position in favour of same-sex marriage.”
He added: “For them to be victimised because of this is patently outrageous, and flies in the face of common sense.
“The Equality Commission ought not to be targeting Ashers in this way. As taxpayers and as Christians, we would urge the commission to drop its threat of legal action.”