Public sides with bakery in gay cake row

William JordanUS Elections Editor
November 08, 2014, 2:16 AM GMT+0

Most people would condemn anti-gay discrimination in taxis, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and other services - but feel the cake maker is going too far

The Equality Commission has said it will be taking legal action against Christian-run bakery in Northern Ireland that refused an order for a cake endorsing gay marriage because it was “at odds” with their beliefs. The equality watchdog is seeking compensation on behalf of a gay rights activist who wanted Ashers Baking Company to make a cake carrying the words “Support Gay Marriage” above an image of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie.

A new YouGov poll finds that two-thirds (65%) of British people find disapprove of the legal proceedings pursued by the Equality Commission, compared to a quarter (25%) who approve and 10% who don’t know.

Most people also find the bakery's refusal to provide the service acceptable. However, this number (56%) is smaller than the number who disapprove of the legal action, suggesting some people don’t find the bakery’s behaviour acceptable yet still won’t support the decision to take the owners to court over them. The number who find the refusal of service unacceptable (33%) is also greater than the number who approve of the legal action to seek compensation for it.

Notably the survey also finds that the public are not prepared to say it is okay in general for owners to refuse service to gay couples on the basis of a moral objection to homosexuality. In a host of other scenarios – restaurants, taxis or minicabs, hotels, bed and breakfasts and members-only clubs – the majority opinion is that it is unacceptable to refuse service.

The Equality Commission has argued it is up to the court to decide if the Belfast-based bakery was engaging in discrimination by refusing to serve the customer.

A spokesman for the watchdog said: "This case raises issues of public importance regarding the extent to which suppliers of goods and services can refuse service on grounds of sexual orientation, religious belief or political opinion.”

See the full poll results