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Direct Discrimination - Wedding Cake

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It is not often that two characters from Sesame Street find themselves at the centre of an employment law storm. However, the case of Lee v Ashers Baking Company has seen the show’s own Bert and Ernie hit the headlines in very unusual circumstances. The case involved a bakery that refused, on religious grounds, to make a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” (accompanied by the duo’s picture) for a gay customer who wanted to mark the end of Northern Ireland Anti-homophobic week.

This refusal was found to be unlawful direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The protected religious beliefs of the company directors, who had refused to fulfil the order, did not stop this being the case. While the indirect involvement of puppet celebrities Bert and Ernie undoubtedly contributed to the press attention this case received, the decision is legally very interesting too. It provides important insight into how discrimination law works when protected characteristics conflict, and tackles interesting issues around comparison when identifying whether discrimination has taken place. This Sesame Street saga has reached the end of the road with the recent announcement that the case will not proceed to the UK Supreme Court as anticipated

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For expert legal advice on employment rights, or other employment related issues, then contact our specialist discrimination employment lawyers today.

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