The compulsion by law of Christian bakers in Northern Ireland to decorate a cake with a same-sex marriage political slogan is the latest example of the intolerance of those pushing for marriage to be redefined in law.

Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton said it was clear that same-sex marriage ideology left no room for those with a different vision of marriage and that the law would be used to enforce compliance.

Mr Shelton was commenting on the defeat this week in the court of appeal in Belfast of an appeal by Ashers Bakery for refusing to decorate a cake with a political slogan which contravened the Christian beliefs of the owners.

In 2014, a local same-sex marriage political activist, Gareth Lee, asked Ashers Bakery to decorate a cake with the image of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie and the slogan “support gay marriage”.

Owners Daniel and Amy McArthur, who believe marriage is between one man and one woman, declined and were ordered by a lower court to pay five hundred pounds in compensation to Mr Lee. 

“Australia’s same-sex marriage activists have told us for years that same-sex marriage does not affect other peoples’ freedoms,” Mr Shelton said.

“Clearly this is not the case.”

Mr Shelton said the Ashers Bakery case had eerie similarities with the legal action recently brought against Hobart’s Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous for distributing Christian teaching on marriage.

Like the case in Northern Ireland, it was a prominent same-sex marriage activist, Rodney Croome, who urged the legal action.

The case against Archbishop Porteous was mysteriously withdrawn after six months but only after it was deemed to be damaging the political movement for same-sex marriage in Australia.

Mr Shelton said it was concerning that Northern Ireland’s equivalent of the powerful taxpayer-funded Australian Human Rights Commission, the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, had advised Mr Lee in his legal action against the bakers.

This also had echoes of the Porteous case where the head of the Tasmanian taxpayer-funded Human Rights Commission, Robin Banks, had ruled that the Archbishop and the entire Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference had a case to answer.

“Given that Australia’s human rights commission believes same-sex marriage is a human right, something not recognised in international law, Australian dissenters to same-sex marriage had cause for concern should the law ever change here.

Mr Shelton said it was concerning that Attorney General George Brandis’ recent exposure draft for legislation to redefine marriage did not include protections for non-clergy business people like the McArthur family.

“Australian florists, photographers, cake makers and venue owners will face the same legal punishment as their US and Irish counterparts if they too wish to exercise their right of conscience to decline services to same-sex weddings under the proposal put forward by Senator Brandis.

“It is clear that the implications for freedom of conscience, speech and religion have not been thought through by the Australian Government.”

Mr Shelton said it was deeply concerning that John O’Doherty, the director of Northern Ireland’s gay activist Rainbow Project, said there was “no justification” for the McArthur’s views.

“This seems to be typical of Australia’s same-sex marriage activists and all the more reason why same-sex marriage is a threat to other Australian’s basic rights and freedoms,” Mr Shelton said.

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