‘Gay’ cake row: Can we have our cake and eat it when it comes to equality and diversity?

The image which Ashers Bakery refused to print on the cake for a Queerspace campaigner
The image which Ashers Bakery refused to print on the cake for a Queerspace campaigner

I have to say I was a little shocked to hear of the Bert & Ernie cake saga where a Newtownabbey bakery made the decision to refuse to bake and decorate a cake with the well known Sesame Street characters linking arms and the words “support gay marriage”.

Initially I thought to myself “big deal a Christian baker didn’t want to make a gay marriage cake”, I was actually confused as to where the story was.

Then it emerged that legal action was being threatened and all hell was breaking loose about the rights and wrongs of gay marriage, rather than the subject of the baking of a cake.

While my personal opinion is to live and let live and I support everyone’s right to choose I have to say that includes the bakery.

I may think it is wrong for the bakery owner to refuse to make the cake but the solid facts of the matter are that this business proprietor had an absolute right to decline any order they didn’t want to service.

Surely serving a customer is at the discretion of the business owner?

If we are going to insist on fighting for equality then it’s important that we extend that right even to those we don’t agree with.

We may not believe in the same ethical principles as one another but it is important to respect people’s right to hold their opinion or beliefs.

Men, women and children fought, died and suffered to fight for our right to live in a democratic society and to live in a time where we can express our religious, political and ethical opinions freely.

To take that right of freedom of speech and expression away from just one person makes us just as bad as the dictators and fascists our pre-decessors fought against in the first place.

I suppose the question has to be asked would we be just as outraged if the Christian bakery refused to decorate a cake celebrating the Muslim God Allah or is this simply a case of gay marriage being a particularly well lobbied subject.

I wonder are we taking this too far. Should we now start suing taxi companies for not picking up in certain areas due to the political and religious beliefs of the majority of the people in that area?

Should we sue bars because they don’t like the look of our trainers, style, hair or tattoos?

I look back at my childhood and I see Sesame Street as a fantastic example of diversity, in fact, I believe in the principles of the programme so much I regularly put songs from the show on for my 17-month old son Logan to enjoy.

As he dances in the living room clapping along to Will I Am singing about inner confidence, Jason Mraz celebrating the great outdoors or Bruno Mars encouraging kids to “try and try and try again” along with the puppets I wonder how the creators of Sesame Street would feel about the persecution of both the bakery and those who choose to support gay marriage. I’m fairly sure they would adopt a live and let live approach.

Meanwhile I’m curious, can we have our cake and eat it when it comes to equality and diversity? Can we censor those we disagree with while protecting the inherent rights of the causes we do agree with?