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This is why Peter Tatchell is such a hero – he backs the bigoted bakers at Ashers on principle and for liberty

Tom Winnifrith Wednesday 10 October 2018

 

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As I have noted before, the LGBTI and civil liberties campaigner Peter Tatchell is a national treasure. I don't always agree with him but today he again showed why he is a man of absolute principle. The case is Ashers, a baker in God’s chosen lands of Ulster, which refused to bake a cake for a same sex wedding. A lower court ruled that it was wrong to do so but at the Supreme Court today the bigoted bakers won their case. Step forward Tatch, a man who helped found the Pride march in London and who has been at the forefront of the gay equality movement for decades,  in their defence, Tatch says:

“This verdict is a victory for freedom of expression. As well as meaning that Ashers cannot be legally forced to aid the promotion of same-sex marriage, it also means that gay bakers cannot be compelled by law to decorate cakes with anti-gay marriage slogans,

Businesses can now lawfully refuse a customer’s request to emblazon a political message if they have a conscientious objection to it. This includes the right to refuse messages that are sexist, xenophobic or anti-gay, which is a good thing.

If the original judgement against Ashers had been upheld it would have meant that a Muslim printer could be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed and a Jewish printer could be forced to publish a book that propagates Holocaust denial. It could have also encouraged far right extremists to demand that bakers and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions.

That would have set a dangerous, authoritarian precedent that could have been open to serious abuse. Discrimination against people should be illegal but not discrimination against ideas and opinions.

Although I profoundly disagree with Ashers opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be forced to facilitate a political idea that they oppose.

The ruling does not permit anyone to discriminate against LGBT people. Such discrimination rightly remains unlawful. Ashers did not discriminate against the customer, Gareth Lee, because he was gay. They objected to the message he wanted on the cake: Support gay marriage.’”

Tatchell’s comments will not make him universally popular in the LGBTI community but one of his great qualities is that he will not give a damn about that. For him it is freedom that must be defended at all costs for he sees, as many on the authoritarian left fail to see, that if we are all free than we are all safer, even if we are from not always popular minority group.

About Tom Winnifrith
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Tom Winnifrith is the editor of TomWinnifrith.com. When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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