Ashers Bakery, in Belfast, has won a seven-year-long legal case against Gareth Lee. Lee requested they bake him a cake decorated with the slogan “support gay marriage.”

The cake was also meant to have images of the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie.

Lee is an LGBTQI activist. He was advocating for same-sex marriage to be legalised in Northern Ireland back in 2014 when he asked the bakery to make him the cake.

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Same-sex marriage was legalised in Northern Ireland last year.

‘Inadmissible’

According to the Guardian, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Lee’s claim as “inadmissible” by a majority decision because he had not “expressly invoked his rights under the European convention on human rights at any point in the domestic proceedings.”

The ECHR also said it would not “reconsider the UK Supreme Court’s decision,” made in 2018.

The UK Supreme Court overturned the $500 damage fee imposed on the Evangelical Christian-owned bakery.

The ECHR said: “The supreme court found on the facts of the case that the applicant was not treated differently on account of his real or perceived sexual orientation, but rather that the refusal to supply the cake was because of the defendants’ religious objection to gay marriage.

“What was principally at issue, therefore, was not the effect on the applicant’s private life or his freedom to hold or express his opinions or beliefs, but rather whether Ashers bakery was required to produce a cake expressing the applicant’s political support for gay marriage.”

‘Spotlight on the Challenges Faced by the LGBT+ in Northern Ireland’

According to the Guardian, Lee’s lawyer, Ciaran Moynagh, expressed his disappointment regarding the ECHR’s decision and considered it a “missed opportunity” to address the “substantive issues raised” and would “consider launching a fresh domestic challenge.”

Lee said he was frustrated that the Strasbourg court threw out the case on “a technicality” and did not adjudicate on the “core issues.”

He said freedom of expression “must equally apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.

“None of us should be expected to have to figure out the beliefs of a company’s owners before going into their shop or paying for their services.

“This case has put a spotlight on the challenges faced by the LGBT+ in Northern Ireland. I will continue to support all law that protects and gives rights to all people equally.”

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The ECHR said it had to balance Lee and the bakery owners, Daniel and Amy McArthur’s, rights. It was “a matter of great import and sensitivity to both LGBTQ communities and to faith communities”, especially in Northern Ireland.

‘A Backwards Step for Equality’

Nancy Kelley, the CEO of Stonewall, criticised the ECHR’s decision, saying, “[It’s] a backwards step for equality.

“Human rights belong to people, not businesses. No business should discriminate against their customers, and no discriminatory behaviour should be held up by equality law. Our thoughts are with Gareth Lee, who deserved more support from the European courts after seven years of working towards equality.”

The Christian Institute supported the McArthurs and its spokesperson, Simon Calvert, said the decision was good news for free speech. “It protects gay business owners from being forced to promote views they don’t share, just as much as it protects Christian business owners.”

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