First of all, I think I should make one thing clear: I support gay marriage – or as I like to call it, marriage.
Right, having made that clear, here goes my piece for tonight. Recently reported was a story about a bakery in Belfast that was fined for refusing to bake a cake which said “Support Gay Marriage.” The refusal came on the grounds of a Catholic background and the fine came on the basis that the refusal demonstrated discrimination against equality. You can see the story, including details of the appeal, here.
Now you’d think that I’d be happy at this outcome but actually, I’m concerned that it is too much of an imposition about what people should think – and I’m not the only one…
If a supplier wants to refuse somebody a service (even if they are in the wrong in doing so) surely it is their right so to do? I’m thinking the bitchy sales assistant in Pretty Woman (Big Mistake. Huge). I’m thinking a Doctor’s right to excuse themselves from performing surgery on a White Supremacist (assuming there is another doctor who will take over… do no harm and all that.) I’m thinking of all the Korean “ob-sey-oh” crossed arms that are thrown in my direction when my foreigner-non-Korean-speaking-self enters a small store, where they don’t want to deal with the English-speaking-waygook. And there are many more examples of when it is ok to say no. I fundamentally disagree with the judges who liken this to the bakers prooducing a cake for a rival football team, or for Halloween. The bakers in question have the right, to say, or not say, what they believe. And I’m sure there are bakers who wouldn’t think twice about making the cake, similarly in Australia, where a photographer was fined for not wanting to photograph a gay wedding. Let’s face it (1) you aren’t going to change someone’s long held ideology in a few months and (2) do you really want someone who doesn’t believe in the purity of your love recording the day? I say leave them an honest review and busy yourself with the task of finding the right photographer.
Obviously I’m talking about this on a supplier – customer scale. When it comes to a country refusing to acknowledge the sanctity of a marriage that legally took place elsewhere (looking at you Australia) that’s not cool. But also, nobody said life would be easy and maybe more people should take the time to write a will or legal instruction that dictates protocol in tragic situations – this totally applies to heterosexual, non-married couples too.
Anyway, I digress. The point is, as much as the customer is always right, the supplier must have some degree of say in what they are willing to do, how far they should stretch their beliefs too. The Irish bakery was, in my humble opinion, within its rights to say no to that customer. Discrimination is not always a dirty word, rather, our understanding of what constitutes discrimination needs to adjust in step with the modern world.