The European Court of Human Rights has deemed inadmissible a complaint by Northern Ireland gay rights campaigner Gareth Lee that a Christian bakery refused to make him a cake frosted with the phrase “Support Gay Marriage”.
The ECHR said Lee had not “exhausted domestic remedies”.
Lee was not discriminated against when Ashers bakery declined to provide him a cake with a gay marriage theme in 2018.
Lee then appealed to the ECHR, arguing the Supreme Court had failed to give him due weight under the European Convention of Human Rights.
The Supreme Court’s dismissal of Lee’s claim for breach of statutory duty to supply services harmed his rights, he alleged.
“Convention arguments must be made publicly or in substance before domestic authorities,” the court ruled.
In the domestic processes, the applicant had not asserted his Convention rights.
With sole reliance on domestic law, the applicant denied domestic courts the chance to resolve any Convention issues highlighted, instead asking the court to usurp their function.
“The application was inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic remedies.”
In May 2014, Lee, a member of the LGBT advocacy group QueerSpace, bought a £36.50 Sesame Street puppet cake from Belfast’s Ashers bakery to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia.
His purchase was accepted and he paid in full, but two days later the Christian owners called to say the message requested was not acceptable.
In 2015 and 2016, Lee won proceedings at the county court and the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal, alleging discrimination based on sexuality.
Daniel and Amy McArthur, proprietors of Ashers, appealed the findings in court, and in 2018, five justices found unanimously that they had not discriminated against the consumer.
Lady Hale, then-president of the court, said the McArthur
“The bakers did not refuse to fulfil Mr Lee’s order because of his sexual orientation,” she claimed.
“They would not have made such a cake for anyone, regardless of sexual orientation.
“Their objection was to the message on the cake, not Lee or anyone else he knew.”
The reluctance to prepare the cake made Lee feel like a “second-class citizen”.
The McArthurs stated they declined this order not because of the maker, but because of the statement on the cake.
the theological belief that “only a man and a woman can be married according to the Bible and God”.