Northern Ireland’s two largest parties have reacted very differently to today’s ruling at the Supreme Court in the ‘gay cake’ case.
Five justices at the UK’s highest court unanimously ruled on Wednesday that the McArthur family did not discriminate against gay rights activist Gareth Lee on the ground of sexual orientation by refusing to bake a cake with a slogan in favour of same-sex marriage.
Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon said: “we are obviously disappointed by today’s ruling.
“I know this ruling is also met with disappointment within the LGBT community and I again want to express my continued solidarity and support to them.”
She added: “Equality must be paramount and all forms of discrimination must be challenged so we will take time to study this judgment to understand fully its implications for to access goods, facilities and services without discrimination.”
Meanwhile, DUP PM Paul Girvan described the ruling as “a victory for freedom of expression” and “for common sense”.
His party leader, Arlene Foster, had earlier Tweeted: “The Ashers ruling is an historic and seminal judgement. This has been a long journey for everyone involved in the case. I commend Amy and Daniel McArthur for their grace and perseverance. This now provides clarity for people of all faiths and none.”
She later Tweeted: “A fundamental freedom was on trial. It is dangerous for society if our laws force people to say things they don’t believe. Delighted the Supreme Court has found against compelled speech. Nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which they do not believe.”
Paul Girvan, in a statement, said: “The unanimous view of the Supreme Court echoes entirely what the McArthur family have said from the start of this process; that their refusal to fulfil the order was because of the message and not in any way related to the customer. The message would have been refused regardless of who might have placed the order.
“The full ramifications of the judgement will become apparent in the months and years ahead. However, there can be little doubt that it has significant ramifications for free speech in Northern Ireland and beyond whilst not eroding important laws against discrimination.”
Mr Girvan continued: “It is vital to stress that no-one should be refused service because of their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. To do so would be discrimination, it would be wrong and it should be supported by no-one in our society.
“Support for the McArthur family in this case has come not just from those who oppose the redefinition of marriage, but from others who saw it as important to protect others in our society from being forced to promote a political idea that they oppose.
“A considerable amount of public money has been expended throughout the duration of this case. The outcome however has been that the United Kingdom’s highest court has unanimously ruled and there is absolute clarity around the actions of the McArthur family.”
The South Antrim MP added: “I want to extend my congratulations to the McArthurs. I have known Daniel and his family for many years and I am proud to call them friends. The Christian Institute and their legal teams must also be commended for their hard work and dedication to this case. They continued to stay the course even amidst significant adversity. Their tenacity has been vindicated.
“It is a victory not just for the McArthur family however, but for wider society and everyone who values freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. Many people who fundamentally disagree with the views held by the McArthur family will enjoy the same protections offered by this common sense ruling from the Supreme Court.”
TUV leader Jim Allister also congratulated the McArthurs.
“I am delighted by the outcome of the Ashers’ case,” he said. “I congratulate the McArthur family for their tenacious and Christian stand which has now been vindicated by the highest court in the land.”
The North Antrim MLA continued: “This is a timely judgement in bringing common sense to an issue which, fuelled by LGBT activists and extremists, had run away with itself. The effort to impose the LGBT agenda on Christian businesses by compelling promotion of their political demands, irrespective of the conscience or religious belief of the business owner, needed to be reined in. While our local courts hadn’t the wisdom or vision to do so, I’m glad the Supreme Court grasped this nettle.
“I trust this decision will also bring the discredited Equality Commission to its senses. It’s promotion of this issue has had the sorry end it deserved.”