Sexual orientation discrimination in the news


An appeal has been issued following a Court decision that a bakery’s refusal to bake a cake for a homosexual customer amounted to discrimination.

The cake included the caption “Support Gay Marriage” and the judge in Northern Ireland decided that it amounted to direct discrimination on grounds of the customer’s sexual orientation.

The original case had the support of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission and was brought against the bakery and its two directors, who were Christians, in May. They had refused to honour a cake order on the grounds of their religious beliefs.

The judge accepted that the bakery has “genuine and deeply held” religious views, but said the business was not above the law. The firm was found to have discriminated on the grounds of sexual orientation as well as his political beliefs.

The bakery’s appeal will be heard in the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination in relation to goods, services and facilities and applies to the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation (the prohibition on age discrimination does not apply to persons under the age of 18).

The Act prohibits a service provider from discriminating against a person with a protected characteristic in the following ways:

  • Not providing a person requiring the service, goods or facilities with the service in question.
  • Not providing the person with a service, goods or facilities of the quality which the service provider usually provides to the public.
  • Not providing the person with the service, goods or facilities in the manner in which, or on the terms on which, the service provider usually provides the service to the public.
  • When providing the service, goods, or facilities to a person, discriminating against or victimising them:
    – as to the terms on which the service, goods, or facilities are provided
    – by terminating the provision of the service, goods or facilities to them or
    – by subjecting them to any other detriment.
  • Harassing a person requiring the service, or a person to whom the service provider provides the service, goods or facilities

Proceedings for discrimination must be brought in the County Court within six months of the date of the act to which the claim relates. The County Court has a discretion to accept proceedings brought outside of the six-month period if in all the circumstances of the case it is “just and equitable” to do so.

What should businesses do?

Businesses should implement effective policies to ensure equality of, access to and enjoyment of their services. All staff should be trained, practices reviewed and any acts of discrimination by employees should be acted upon by way of a disciplinary.

If you require more information on how to ensure your business stays on the right side of the Equality Act please contact our Employment solicitors by email or call 01708 229444 to speak to one of the team.

This article was written by Alex Pearce, Associate Solicitor in the Employment Department at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at July 2015. 


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