As an LGBT Christian – I’m glad justice has been served in Asher’s Bakery Case
I am a trade unionist, lesbian and Christian. For me the recent ruling on the Asher’s bakery had a particular resonance.
The vote on same sex marriage in the Republic of Ireland was a sea change in social attitudes. It brought into stark relief the persistent rejection of LGBT rights and in particular equal marriage rights from the Northern Ireland Assembly.
As trade unionists, whose work is to provide goods and services, this ruling is really significant. All employees have a responsibility to provide goods and services to customers irrespective of their sexuality or gender identity. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that employees do this. Employers must also ensure that LGBT employees in the workplace are not put in a position where customers or other employees can treat us in a discriminatory way.
Many commentators, including those who support LGBT rights in general, have expressed reservations about the case. They see the case as a matter of freedom of religion or right to conscience. They are missing the main point of the judgement and of the legislation on equality.
The fundamental principle on which the bakery case ruling was made is sound, that of equality in the provision of goods and services. This law covers all services whether public or private, whether matters of life or death or something a lot less, like buying a cake.
To abandon this principle would have consequences that would be very worrying. Allowing businesses or individual employees to provide unfavourable treatment on the basis of their sexual orientation would inevitably foster social intolerance. The TUC campaigns for the principle of LGBT equality legislation without religious exemptions.
Faith based homophobia and transphobia is a growing phenomena worldwide and we have to be vigilant. Particularly in the current volatile situation in the UK where hate crimes are on the up. We would be naïve to not to foresee that loopholes such as ‘reasonable accommodation’ would encourage divisive stand offs that would be exploited by certain religious and political groupings.
As trade unionists we need to develop a social space that can enable inclusive solidarity. We need to campaign for a society where we are encouraged to respect others for who they are and diversity is seen as positive social good.