In a recent case the supreme court held that it was not.
In Lee-v- Ashers Baking Company Ltd and others the supreme court held that Ashers Baking Company had not directly discriminated against Mr Lee. In this case Mr Lee, a gay rights activist, had requested Ashers Baking Company bake him a cake containing the words “support gay marriage”. The bakery initially accepted the order before going back to Mr Lee stating they were unable to fulfil his request, as to do so would be contrary to their religious beliefs; the bakers being of Christian religion did not support same sex marriage.
Mr Lee bought a claim against the bakery for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and belief. Initially Mr Lee’s claim was successful and further supported by the Court of Appeal, however, the Supreme Court overruled this decision. In the judgement the President of the Supreme Court stated “Their objection was to the message on the cake, not to the personal characteristics of Mr Lee. Accordingly, this court holds that there was no discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation of Mr Lee.” The bakery would have refused the same order from any person not just Mr Lee. The reasons behind the baker’s decision was purely as a result of their religious beliefs and not one which was made directly against Mr Lee.
The findings of this case are interesting as they are likely to influence the outcome of discrimination cases involving sexual orientation or the right to hold religious belief in the future. The decision is likely to make claims involving conflict of rights – e.g. between sexual orientation and genuinely held religious beliefs – more difficult to bring in the future.