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Senator: suppliers should be able to say "I don't" to same-sex marriage

Senator: suppliers should be able to say

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Senator: suppliers should be able to say "I don't" to same-sex marriage


The campaign to bring in same-sex marriages in Jersey has hit another stumbling block, this time over whether marriage ceremony suppliers, such as bakers or florists, should have the right to refuse the business.

Senator Sarah Ferguson raised the issue at a recent Scrutiny meeting with the Chief Minister - she says that the same-sex marriage law shouldn't be going ahead until its resolved. Recently in Northern Ireland, a Christian baker was fined for refusing to make a cake supporting same-sex marriage.

During the latest Corporate Services Scrutiny hearing with the Chief Minister, Senator Ferguson asked if the soon-to-be introduced same-sex marriage law would make such allowances for the protection of retailers, florists and other tradesmen. The Chief Minister replied that there were no particular safeguards included within the same-sex marriage law, as they would come under the anti-discrimination law. 

Senator Gorst said: "We are continuing with the legalisation of same-sex marriage knowing there remains some concerns for some individuals. But nowhere else has found a legal remedy for it yet."

Wedding same sex marriage

Pictured: Same-sex couples should be able to get married in Jersey starting from Spring 2018.

Senator Ferguson then asked, "Should be we doing it (introducing same-sex marriage) before we find a remedy?," adding later on "Do they need to insist that somebody should make them a cake against their freedom of conscience?" She told Express that she and her team have been researching the issue and that she aims to speak to the Attorney General to make sure that religious freedom and freedom of conscience will be respected. She said: "It is not a big job but rather a question of common sense which is incredibly lacking at the moment." 

She added: "I have no real opinion on same-sex marriage, it is up to the people involved and the cleric who does the ceremony. But I think it should be fair play on both sides. Why should people lose their livelihood because they disagree? People are entitled to have different opinions and as long as they are not totally criminal why should they be penalised?" 

But for Vic Tanner-Davy, CEO of equality and diversity charity Liberate, it is a "complete and utter misinterpretation of the law." He explained that same-sex couples who enter civil partnerships are able to get cakes, caterers and venues for their ceremony and that no one's plan has ever been jeopardised by someone refusing to serve. He said: "The law concerning the provision for supplying goods and services is already in place within the anti-discrimination law. This has no bearing on the marriage law and has nothing to do with people getting married. It looks to me like a red herring but this is no grounds to use to call for the same-sex legislation not to come in." 

The same-sex legislation was due to be in place by the end of the year but the Chief Minister announced it had been delayed on the eve of the recent Pride parade, due to underestimating the complexity of the legalisation. Senator Gorst met with Liberate on Monday and assured them that same-sex legislation would be in place by Spring 2018, which Mr Tanner-Davy said will give more clarity to the couples who are already busy planning their wedding ceremonies.

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Posted by John Henwood on
A man goes into a baker's shop to order a cake, he is exceptionally rude to the shop assistant who calls the manager; the manager says I'm not going to serve you because of your rudeness and bad manners toward a member of staff. End of story, the rude customer has no redress. A man goes into a baker's shop to order a cake, he is also exceptionally rude to the assistant who calls the manager. However, this rude man happens to be gay and wants to order a cake for his wedding to his same sex partner. Dare the manager refuse to serve him on grounds of his rudeness and bad manners? I doubt it because he fears the rude customer will complain that he has been discriminated on grounds of his sexuality. Anti-discrimination laws will continue to raise difficult questions.
Posted by Sarah Ferguson on
Your headlin e is entirely misleading. My point is that cases like the Northern Ireland case are unreasonable. To lose your business, house and livelihood over a particular difference of opinion in these particular circumstances is unjust. As i have said, I have no problem with same sex marriage - that is a matter for the indivuals involved - but it is unfair that someone is not allowed their freedom of conscience.
Posted by david forde on
I agree with Sarah. Your sexual choice is yours, and yours alone. To use it, to exploit, or indeed extort ill gotten gains, via a discrimination law suit is wholly unjust. They have a right to freedom of choice as do you. Take your business elsewhere!
Posted by Tony Bellows on
The Northern Ireland judgment centered on direct discrimination. They concluded that:

The benefit from the message or slogan on the cake could only accrue to gay or bisexual people. The appellants would not have objected to a cake carrying the message “Support Heterosexual Marriage” or indeed “Support Marriage”. We accept that it was the use of the word “Gay” in the context of the message which prevented the order from being fulfilled. The reason that the order was cancelled was that the appellants would not provide a cake with a message supporting a right to marry for those of a particular sexual orientation. This was a case of association with the gay and bisexual community and the protected personal characteristic was the sexual orientation of that community. Accordingly this was direct discrimination.

The answer is not to have the legislation changed and thereby remove the equality protection concerned. The answer is for the supplier of services to cease distinguishing, on prohibited grounds, between those who may or may not receive the service. Thus the supplier may provide the particular service to all or to none but not to a selection of customers based on prohibited grounds.
Posted by Tony Bellows on
John - there is a 2017 case where a refusal was made on the grounds that the bespoke cake was too complex and the text was too long, and it would have taken away from other cakes being made, i.e., a purely commercial decision. This was not deemed discrimination. It did go to Court but was thrown out and established a precedent.

I am sure the Court would throw out your "rude customer" case on similar grounds. In this case, the customer bombarded the baker with angry emails and letters as well.
Posted by nigel pearce on
A retailer has the right to refuse to sell an item if he does not wish. When I was in business, if I had not wanted to sell an item to a potential customer, that was up to me to make that decision. If I didn't want to sell it for any reason, I was within my rights. A deal can only be concluded between the seller and buyer by mutual agreement.
Posted by DavidGardiner59 on
Anybody can decline to do business with another person or people, that is clear.

It is the reason they give for not doing the business that is at issue.

If I chose not to do business with someone and was then able to tell them why to their face in a discriminatory way that is clearly wrong.

I see a sign over the door “no weddings here for same sex couples”.

Then t shirts and mugs.

It’s not the action of not doing business, it’s the right to be able to openly tell people why you are refusing to do business.

Anyway I am going to spend the rest of this week choosing who to do business with and offending nobody.
Posted by Nat Le Brun on
I'm a disabled person. If a bakery were to refuse to sell me a wedding cake based on my wheelchair use or my Asperger's Syndrome there would be uproar. People would be signing petitions and arguing against the way I was treated. I'm also LGBT.

Now what Sarah is saying is that my sexuality should be cause for someone to be able to turn down a requested service because it's against their personal belief. If that's the case, in my opinion, by that same token LGBT people should be able to refuse service to heterosexual people because of their sexuality or gender orientation.

How far exactly should this go? Should doctors be able to refuse IVF to same sex couples? Should they be able to refuse healthcare to families with same sex parents? The workplace (unless specifically religious like a Church gift shop) is no place for religious beliefs to take precedence. And yes I'm also a Christian.
Posted by Tony Bellows on
I see a sign over the door “no weddings here for same sex couples”.

Remember when there were signs on boarding houses in the UK in the 1960s - "no blacks". That is why we have a law against direct discrimination.
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