Bakers In Northern Ireland Have Won The Right To Not Make Pro-Gay Marriage Cakes

Happy National Coming Out Day!

The Supreme Court in Northern Ireland has ruled in favour of a baker who refused to bake a pro-gay marriage cake featuring Bert & Ernie of Sesame Street.

The story first made headlines in 2014, when a gay rights activist visited Ashers Baking Company and asked them to make a cake that said ‘Support Gay Marriage’ underneath a photo of Bert & Ernie. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that hasn’t passed a law legalising same-sex marriage.

Bert doesn’t like that.

The bakery’s staff passed the order along to their head office, who declared the cake to be at odds with their beliefs. In the end, another bakery made the cake, and the issue was taken to court.

The activist took the issue to court with the assistance of the Northern Irish Equality Commission, and initially, the court agreed that the bakery’s actions were discriminatory. That verdict was upheld following an appeal, but this week, a second appeal was successful, and the Supreme Court found that the bakery’s actions were not discriminatory.

This decision comes after the United States Supreme Court made a similar ruling in June. They ruled in favour of a Colorado-based baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012.

While the US Supreme Court focused on the religious freedom (a right guaranteed by the First Amendment) of the baker, the UK Supreme Court focused on not forcing the bakery to ice a message that it profoundly disagreed with.


“The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage, but that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed.”

Australia hasn’t yet had a case like this, although a case where Christian Youth Camps were sued for denying a group of gay teenagers use of their facilities found that CYC had unlawfully discriminated against the group.

The CYC tried to use the religious freedom exemptions included in the Equal Opportunity Act of 1995 (VIC), but the court found that since the group was not ‘a body established for religious purposes’, the exemptions weren’t applicable. If a bakery tried to use a similar argument to those used in the US or UK in Australia, it might have difficulty given bakeries don’t exist for religious purposes.

Activists fear that these rulings will set a precedent that allows private businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexuality and defend their right to do using an argument of religious freedom, or free speech. The manager of Ashers Baking Company described the Supreme Court’s decision in their favour as a “victory for free speech” when he spoke to the media.

The UK case is tricky, because the bakery argued that they weren’t discriminating against the activist because he was gay, it was because they didn’t agree with the message he wanted on the cake. So the bakers in the two cases used different arguments, but achieved the same results.

These cases raise all sorts of questions, including: where does one person’s right to free speech end and another’s begin? Which other groups can be discriminated against on the grounds of religious freedom or free speech?

Anti-discrimination laws exist for a reason. But these cases tell us that they aren’t enough when religious freedom or free speech are perceived as being under threat, as does yesterday’s news that Prime Minister Scott Morrison supports the right of religious schools to expel students on the basis of their sexuality. I just hope that if a similar case comes up in Australia, the courts do the right thing.

GLAAD’s New Award Category Will Help Give Gaymers The Representation They Deserve

The announcement of the new category comes ahead of the 30th GLAAD Media Awards next year.

GLAAD will recognise video games that have outstanding “LGBTQ-inclusive content” starting next year at the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards.

While the awards have previously recognised outstanding comic books, blogs, TV shows and movies, this is the first time video games will be included among the categories.

The full description of the category is:

Given to a video game with outstanding LGBTQ-inclusive content. Award is given for an interactive experience that includes authentic and impactful LGBTQ characters or storylines. Judging will take into consideration the degree to which the LGBTQ-inclusive content is effectively woven into gameplay, including player agency and the world itself. 

AKA, the inclusion of LGBTQ characters should be meaningful and not tokenistic. Think Life Is Strange or Gone Home, or The Last Of Us: Part II.

Speaking to The Hollywood ReporterGLAAD’s VP of Programs Zeke Stokes said that “there was an unprecedented number of LGBTQ-inclusive games in 2017”, and that GLAAD “can’t ignore the video gaming space”, adding that it’s “super evident the gaming industry are willing” to help make sure LGBTQ people are included in media. Stokes also said that GLAAD is expecting more than a dozen nominees for the category.

GLAAD has previously recognised Dragon Age: Inquisition for its inclusion of LGBTQ characters in 2014.

Nominations are currently open for next year’s awards, and nominees will be announced in January.

(Header photo courtesy of Dontnod Entertainment)

The Macquarie Dictionary Is Changing Its Definition Of Safe Sex Because HIV Stigma Doesn't Belong in 2018

There's no need to single out AIDS as a sexually transmitted disease when defining 'safe sex'.

LGBTQI activist and founder of The Institute of Many, Nic Holas, tweeted yesterday afternoon that following an enquiry from one of The Institute’s members, the Macquarie Dictionary had promised to change their definition of ‘safe sex’.

Currently, the definition reads:

“any sexual practices in which precautions are taken to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, especially AIDS.”

Institute of Many member Mark sent an enquiry to Macquarie Dictionary, rightfully pointing out that AIDS is not transmitted through sex (HIV is), and suggesting the emphasis on AIDS wasn’t necessary.

The emphasis on AIDS harkens back to a time when being diagnosed with HIV was much more likely to lead to AIDS. Now, with the existence of things like antiretrovirals that are actually decent, an HIV diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop AIDS, and meds like PrEP mean HIV transmission rates are much lower in general nationwide.

It is… odd that the dictionary would single out the one major sexually-transmitted disease that’s largely associated with the LGBTQI community when it’s nowhere near the most common STI (in Australia, that honour goes to chlamydia).

Fortunately, the team at the Dictionary were sympathetic to Mark’s concerns, and responded with an email that said:

“Our Editor-in-Chief has confirmed that you are correct regarding the statement in the definition, and this will be updated accordingly.”

At the time of publishing, the definition in the online dictionary hasn’t yet been changed, but I assume these sorts of changes take a few days.

Being able to say you helped change a dictionary definition is pretty great, and educating people about how they can ensure they don’t contribute to the stigmatisation of those living with HIV is even better. On ya Mark!


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