DUP MP Ian Paisley has written to the secretary of state for Northern Ireland asking for a review of the Equality Commission’s funding, following today’s judgment in the ‘gay cake’ case.
The Christian owners of a bakery have won an appeal at the UK’s highest court over a finding that they discriminated against a customer by refusing to make a cake decorated with the words ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
Five Supreme Court justices allowed a challenge by the McArthur family in a unanimous ruling in London in what has become widely known as the ‘gay cake case’.
The legal action was originally brought against family-run Ashers bakery in Belfast by gay rights activist Gareth Lee, who won his case initially in the county court and then at the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.
Mr Paisley told the News Letter: “I’ve been contacted by many people and many church groups who have been following this case, and they’ve been appalled at the waste of public money.
“It wasn’t as if this was a narrow case. This was thrown out by the Supreme Court.
“There has to be a review of how a public body is allowed to pursue a case that gets completely trashed by the Supreme Court. That is the first thing.
“The second thing is how they are currently funded, and whether any scrutiny can be given to how they are funded. They have never been in front, for example, of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee. I don’t know who holds them to account, so that’s what I am raising with the secretary of state.”
The North Antrim MP also criticised the Equality Commission’s response to the ruling by the Supreme Court.
Immediately after the ruling, Dr Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said he was disappointed with the ruling, and expressed concern the judgment may “raise uncertainty about the application of equality law in the commercial sphere”.
Mr Paisley said: “It appears that the Equality Commission’s immediate response isn’t to take this and say ‘we’ve got this wrong, we’ve got to reassess and re-evaluate, to learn from this’.
“Instead their response is one of complete arrogance.
“My immediate response was that I must put something to the secretary of state about how they (the commission) are funded, and that is exactly what I’ve done.
“Anyone who looks at this common sense ruling by the Supreme Court should recognise that this should be the end of this matter.
“The Equality Commission, if they don’t realise that, are failing in their duty to the rest of society. They’ve got to now move on instead of picking at this scab.”
Mr Paisley added: “Normally they would, of course, be able to take this to the European Court but of course the UK made the very wise decision to leave the European Union. Time has run out on that one. I hope this ruling is final.”
The News Letter has approached the Equality Commission for for comment.