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U.K.’s Top Court Sides with Baker in Gay Cake Case

No, a baker cannot be compelled to “support gay marriage” with frosting.

Bert and ErnieEverett Collection/NewscomThe United Kingdom's highest court ruled Wednesday that a baker cannot be forced to bake a cake with a pro-gay message on it.

The U.K. doesn't have the First Amendment speech protections familiar to United States citizens, but it does have many protections for freedom of expression under the European Convention of Human Rights. Citing those protections, the five judges on the U.K. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a baker cannot be forced to sell a cake that included a message he or she found objectionable.

The case revolved around a bakery in Belfast, Ireland, and the religious couple who owned it. A customer came to them in 2014 asking them to make a cake that said "support gay marriage," and included a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. The owners did not support gay marriage for religious reasons and therefore declined to make the cake.

The customer complained to the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, claiming discrimination on the basis of his sexual orientation, religious belief, or political opinion. Lower courts found for the customer, concluding that the bakers had discriminated against him.

Not so, says the U.K. Supreme court in its ruling. The bakery did not refuse to serve the customer on the basis of him being gay. The bakery refused to add a message onto the cake that they objected to. They would have rejected the cake regardless of the sexual orientation of the customer. The U.K.'s free speech protections, much like ours in the United States, also protect a person's right to refuse to communicate a message they oppose. The ruling even makes note of the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court decision from the United States:

The important message from the Masterpiece Bakery case is that there is a clear distinction between refusing to produce a cake conveying a particular message, for any customer who wants such a cake, and refusing to produce a cake for the particular customer who wants it because of that customer's characteristics. One can debate which side of the line particular factual scenarios fall. But in our case there can be no doubt. The bakery would have refused to supply this particular cake to anyone, whatever their personal characteristics. So there was no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

The reason for the ruling has, as has been typical, falling on the deaf ears of the "Just bake me a cake!" crowd. In The Guardian, the customer in the case complains, "I'm very confused about what this actually means. We need certainty when you go to a business. I'm concerned that this has implications for myself and for every single person."

This isn't confusing at all, and this is pretty much how free speech has generally been applied. Admittedly I'm not familiar with all of the relevant precedents in U.K.'s courts, but in the United States there are a number of court cases that prohibit the government from compelling most forms of speech or expression.

In other words, you don't get certainty. Doing business with your fellow humans does not require that every other human do whatever you ask of them. The great thing about a robust free market is that it's easy to find alternatives when a baker or printer doesn't want to say what you want them to.

Read the court ruling here.

Photo Credit: Everett Collection/Newscom

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    LGBrexiT

  • Zeb||

    Funny, though, since this has to do with EU rules, it could potentially change after Brexit.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    cEUcks?

  • Cyto||

    I find this ruling extremely confusing. It comports with my view of how the world should work... but this is in the UK?

    This, from a country that just got finished prosecuting someone for posting a video of a dog saluting Hitler.

    My brain hurts.

  • Zeb||

    I think the distinction is compelled vs. banned speech. They decided some time ago that banning certain speech was OK. But compelling speech is on shakier legal grounds.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    What about compelled banned speech? Is that double plus ungood?

  • Cyto||

    This guy gets it.

    Now, off to the Ministry of Peace to see how the war effort is going....

  • SQRLSY One||

    "Peace is our profession. War is just a hobby."

    (Sarcastic thing mumbled under their breaths, by airmen, in the old days in USAF, SAC, Strategic Air Command, whose official motto was indeed, "Peace is our profession". I don't know if this is still true.)

  • Agammamon||

    Its not. SAC was disestablished in 1992.

  • Agammamon||

    According to Wikipedia, its role was re-enabled in 2009 under the AF Global Strike Command - whose motto is 'Deter . . . Assure . . . Strike'.

    Yes, complete with the stupid ellipses.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Hey, thanks! I was curious, truth be told...

  • IceTrey||

    I'm pretty sure dogs don't know who Hitler is.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Obey my dog.

  • Yellow Tony||

    Bert and Ernie


    Has it been decided who's the top?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Bert, clearly.

  • MasterThief||

    Bert. Ernie is both a beta and a manchild (possibly under age)

  • Agammamon||

    You guys seriously don't get the relationship dynamic here.

    'Outside', Bert is the dominant one. He runs the relationship's public face and sets the priorities and takes care of things. But its Ernie who's running things in the bedroom. That's where Bert lets go and relaxes and lets someone else control things.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    They've been wearing the same hideous shirts for 50 years. These guys are autistically straight.

  • Mickey Rat||

    That look was the height of fashion in the early '70s. Those were truly dark days.

  • lafe.long||

    Frank Oz got attacked on the twatters recently for clearly stating, "Ernie and Bert are not gay".

  • ||

    They are into fisting though.

  • IceTrey||

    They just like to suck a dick once in a while.

  • BALONEY TONEY MAHONEY||

    So, is it Butt & Ernie?

  • Cyto||

    Also, I'm glad to see that the professional grievance crowd has made it to the U.K.

    At least, I'm assuming that they only went to the baker in order to find a case they could bring in court, not because they wanted a cake.

  • Curt||

    "I'm very confused about what this actually means. We need certainty when you go to a business. I'm concerned that this has implications for myself and for every single person."

    "In other words, you don't get certainty."

    Actually, you do get certainty. They made it very clear that you cannot compel someone to express an opinion that they don't agree with. What more certainty could anyone ask for? It eliminates the need to shop around until you find a baker that refuses to provide your desired message and then pitch a shit fit. Now, you know for a fact that you can't force them to do whatever you demand.

  • Zeb||

    You still don't have certainty of getting what you want when you enter a particular bake shop, which is what I think he means.

    Tough shit. I frequently go to places of business and fail to get exactly what I want. If I don't want to compromise, I go elsewhere.

  • ||

    Turns out, there's a market for certainty and you can have all you like if you bring copious amounts of currency.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    You talking about hiring Dr. Kevorkian or an IRS agent?

  • lap83||

    "shop around until you find a baker that refuses to provide your desired message and then pitch a shit fit."

    This is key of course. The lawsuit-happy gay cake crowd always acts like they are living in some kind religious zealot-imposed cake desert. BS. Anyone can buy a cake at any number of places if they don't have certain demands that the baker can't or won't meet. I didn't even order a "wedding" cake for my wedding. I had mostly pie and regular old chocolate cake. I could have been marrying my gay dog for all the baker knew. I can't help but think these people want the lawsuit more than they want a cake.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Just like those uppity blacks who ignored the Green Book and wanted to stay in white hotels and eat in public restaurants. The people who fought public accommodation access for blacks are the same people who insist on a right to exhibit bigotry toward gays, the right to refuse to provide medical treatment or prescriptions they dislike, etc. today. They like to play a Republican-enabled game of 'heads we win, tails you lose,' though -- they want to discriminate against others, but insist that no one can discriminate against them.

  • ||

    Just like those uppity blacks who ignored the Green Book and wanted to stay in white hotels and eat in public restaurants.

    It's actually not really like that at all.

    The people who fought public accommodation access for blacks are the same people who insist on a right to exhibit bigotry toward gays

    Southern Democrats from the 1950s?

  • Azathoth!!||

    When did Massachusetts become 'southern'?

  • Rat on a train||

    Canucks, eh?

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Southern Democrats from the 1950s

    They were as bad as today's southern Republicans, largely because they tend to be the same old-timey, superstitious bigot from the same left-behind, shambling southern town, but holding a different registration card.

  • damikesc||

    Except it is odd that as the South became less racist, it also became far less Democrat.

    It's not that the parties switched. It's that Hitler killed racism as a viable strategy and, well, the Dems had to change their old-school racism for their new-school racism.

  • ||

    they tend to be the same old-timey, superstitious bigot from the same left-behind, shambling southern town, but holding a different registration card

    Man, those guys must be really, really old by now.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Arty, democrats are racist and evil. Like you.

  • lap83||

    "the right to refuse to provide medical treatment or prescriptions they dislike, etc."

    How did we get from bakers not wanting to participate in gay weddings to doctors cruelly sending sick gay people out onto the street? Maybe someone else can follow that "logic"

  • lap83||

    Is it prescription strength icing? Am I getting warmer?

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Some childish pharmacy employees believe their fairy tales entitle them to refrain from respecting their licensed duties, their patients' needs, and physicians' prescriptions.

  • Agammamon||

    Ah, now I know who you are. Bringing that 'green book' bullshit up again. Fucking Tony. You act like it was some sort of bible and Blacks couldn't possibly ever safely patronize any business except those listed.

  • IceTrey||

    You do know Jim Crow was the LAW? Humans as a consequence of their natural right to liberty are allowed to discriminate. It's called free association.

  • Fancylad||

    Has Kirkland ever made an accurate analogy? Even once?

  • Mickey Rat||

    Is the UK government going to issue a warning to LGTBQs about traveling to the United Kingdom because its culture is hostile , like they did with the USA?

  • ||

    "Just bake me a cake!" crowd.

    Scott, it's okay to call them gay.

  • Cyto||

    And not the "sexual preference" kind of gay.

  • David Emami||

    I'm not sure what the UK's equivalent of the 13th Amendment is (they've outlawed slavery, so I presume there's some corresponding law), but in the US, religion and freedom of expression shouldn't even be part of the discussion if the Constitution is read honestly. Baking a cake is a service. For whatever reason, the baker doesn't want to perform the service. Forcing him to do so means that he's doing so involuntarily, and so constitutes involuntary servitude.

    Yes, I know the courts haven't taken the 13th Amendment seriously when the government is the one doing the compelling (cf. the 1918 ruling that the draft is perfectly ok), but as the saying goes: if the law believes that, the law is an ass.

  • MasterThief||

    That's how I argued the case from the beginning. The religion and speech defenses were not as strong.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Good luck with that argument. The income tax is also involuntary servitude.

  • David Emami||

    I did say "if the Constitution is read honestly."

  • IceTrey||

    Haven't you heard the income tax is voluntary?

  • ||

    It really comes down to the CRA. The argument is that the public accommodation provisions of the CRA constitute involuntary servitude.

    If the baker can refuse service because they disapprove of gay people for religious reasons, then can "slay-the-white-demon" Rastafarians refuse service to white people? If the Rastafarians can refuse service to white people, can KKK members refuse service to black people?

    It's the CRA that needs to go. Discussions over who and who shouldn't be covered by it is, to steal a phrase, a black hole.

  • Azathoth!!||

    If the baker can refuse service because they disapprove of gay people for religious reasons, then can "slay-the-white-demon" Rastafarians refuse service to white people?

    Yes. And they do. Routinely.

    If the Rastafarians can refuse service to white people, can KKK members refuse service to black people?

    No. That would be racism.

  • IceTrey||

    The 13th actually allows slavery as a punishment for crimes.

  • David Emami||

    True enough, but I was not aware that any of the bakers/florists/photographers in these cases had been convicted of any crimes for which "bake cakes" was the punishment.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm concerned that this has implications for myself and for every single person.

    The implication is to walk to the accommodating business down the street, single person.

  • Cyto||

    Or, you know, buy a tube of icing and write on the cake yourself. It isn't like that is the hard part.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    For you, maybe. But the average Limey has to kern for superfluous U's in all those words.

  • Cyto||

    Which is perfect... more icing on your slice of cake!

  • Cyto||

    I wonder if these "compelled cake baking" activists think it would be OK to insist that a baker produce a specific cake with other reasons for being offensive to the baker.

    Like, could you insist on a pornographic cake? Maybe a giant penis cake?

    Or could you insist on a hooded clansman cake?

    Or how about going to a Muslim baker and ordering a Bar Mitzvah cake?

    Or to an Armenian baker and order a cake for Turkish independence day...

    You get the drift.

  • Mickey Rat||

    I have seen these arguments made. They don't think those instances should be illegal if they have sympathy to the potential objection. They feel objecting to same sex marriage is uniquely hateful and can be disallowed on that feeling. Their argument can never work against what they would approve.

  • ||

    This is why a clever meta-activist would order a pro-gay-marriage cake from a Muslim bakery and stand back to see which side the various parties take.

  • Azathoth!!||

    When he did no one paid any attention to it.

    The Muslim bakeries refused him service, of course.

    No one cared.

  • damikesc||

    Yeah. Steven Crowder did a video on it and, no, nobody gave two shits when he couldn't find a Muslim bakery to make such a cake.

    Odd that no gay activists have tried lawsuits against that.

  • sarcasmic||

    Good luck getting a "compelled cake baking" activist to separate the message from the person asking for it. They're intentionally obtuse.

  • Muzzled Woodchipper||

    But that's different.

    Because reasons and stuff.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I was not aware so much vestigial bigotry and superstition-laced backwardness persists. I must be spending most of my time in modern, successful, educated communities among skilled, tolerant, accomplished people.

  • lap83||

    Could you mix up the trolling a bit? You could be replaced with a "pompous idiot" phrase generator and no one would be the wiser. Be more creative

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I was not aware libertarians were gay-bashing, wall-building, womb-managing, drug-warring, right-wing authoritarians, mostly because they are not.

    Faux libertarians are among my favorite deplorables.

  • TuIpa||

    "Faux libertarians are among my favorite deplorables"

    No one cares who you give 5 dollar handies to.

  • Red Tony||

    Huh. Five dollar handjob...but it's from Kirkland...huh.

    This is a tough one. Can I get back to you on that?

  • TuIpa||

    You know he's terrible, just look at how self-absorbed he is.

  • David Emami||

    Well, Kirkland is the Costco brand, so I assume you have to buy them in batches of 24 or something like that.

  • David Emami||

    "Replaced"? I'm pretty sure 90% of his posts are actually produced by some sort of Perl script already. Or perhaps he's an alpha version of Google's automatic reply feature -- you know, the thing that lets you pick from a list of "Yes, I'll be there", "Sorry, I'm busy", "Not sure, I'll get back to you later" type of responses. Except in this case, it generates 3-7 "progressive" insults, runs them through a thesaurus, and strings the results together.

  • ||

    You are an incredibly tedious person. Your constant self-congratulation is grating beyond belief.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    85 IQ hicklibs like Arthur don't have the greatest self-awareness.

  • sarcasmic||

    By "tolerant" you mean people who don't tolerate intolerance, correct?

    After all, I doubt your smug "tolerant" crowd would tolerate people who don't share their "tolerant" beliefs, correct?

    Wouldn't that make "tolerant" people intolerant?

  • Azathoth!!||

    When I see Artie write something like this--

    I must be spending most of my time in modern, successful, educated communities among skilled, tolerant, accomplished people

    All I can picture is some refugee from The Hills have eyes skulking in an abandoned port-o-let behind some forsaken service station drooling and jerking one of the hemi-penes that sprouts from the cluster around his crotch every time someone from a car comes in to take a dump into his grinning mouth.

  • IceTrey||

    Superstition-laced backwardness? You're a reverend.

  • GoatOnABoat||

    I wish that all the ladies
    Were pies on the shelf
    And if I was a baker...

    Is that cadence even allowed anymore or have they banned it from boot camp?

  • Echo Chamber||

    It would be a pity if such a classic limerick were ever banned

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    My perpetually unemployed, shut-in SJW sister has declared that every business must display a sign saying clearly who they will and will not serve. I recalled those signs you might still see in mom and pop shops that declare the right to refuse service to whom ever they wish. Nope, she didn't like that. She wants to compel every business owner to list the minorities (identities?) they refuse to serve in a sign outside the premises. I don't really see how that's relevant to either this or the masterpiece cake shop decision since it's the message that is objectionable to the baker, but I suppose, like the complete moron in this case coddled by the identity zealots at The Guardian, she doesn't understand basic reason. I was considering doing a blog of "shit my sister says" but I'd likely end up getting lynched. What happened to generations of millennials that sucked them into this world of toxic garbage online?* It makes Reason trolls look, uh, reasonable by comparison. Honestly I wish she'd just fuck off and get a job, and a life, and maybe she would be happier and make sense.

    *The irony of posting that here is not lost on me, but this is the only inter web comments I post in, and the closest I get to using social media beyond whatsapp, which is just texting, really.

  • ||

    She wants to compel every business owner to list the minorities (identities?) they refuse to serve in a sign outside the premises.

    Does she want the businesses to have the right to actually not serve these groups, or does she want the signs to simply be aspirational?

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    I think she wants them to technically retain the right to refuse service, but, make it easier for the mob to identify them as wrongthinkers.

  • Intelligent Mr Toad||

    My Mama taught me: bakers can't be choosers.

  • ||

    *banned*

  • Agammamon||

    . . . but it does have many protections for freedom of expression under the European Convention of Human Rights. Citing those protections, the five judges on the U.K. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a baker cannot be forced to sell a cake that included a message he or she found objectionable.

    The problem here is that the way the EU's protections are written, the very next paragraph after they're laid out they give themselves an out that completely negates those protections.

    Sure, these particular judges ruled sanely (from out point of view) on this case - they've (and lot's of lower court judges) have not. They've thrown a man in jail for teaching a pug how to do a Nazi salute. The police, openly, threaten people who might say mildly disapproving things about Muslims.

    Once they leave the EU - assuming May doesn't backstab them - they might get back to where they were 20 years ago. But right now you have all the free speech rights of *France* inside the UK.

  • Harvard||

    Tony is queerly sad over this.

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