The howls of protest from some quarters over the Ashers bakery ruling in Northern Ireland this week were as predictable as they were absurd.
A judge ruled on Monday that adding the word “gay” to a cake celebrating marriage had led the bakery to refuse the order, a clear breach of the equality law, which dictates that all customers be treated equally.
Ian O’Doherty, the Irish Independent’s conservative commentator, was inconsolable. He raced to Twitter to announce that the sky was falling. It’s PC run mad, he groused.
“One reader today said the views of people like Ashers should be ‘stamped out’ - we're entering a reign of tyranny if we're not careful,” O’Doherty tweeted, rather hysterically.
One reader today said the views of people like #Ashers should be 'stamped out' - we're entering a reign of tyranny if we're not careful— Ian O'Doherty (@ian_odoherty) October 24, 2016
What does he think is going to happen? Are one hundred gay bakers armed with spatulas and cake decorating equipment coming to force him to paint rainbows on a Victoria sponge?
This is overheated nonsense, but O’Doherty was seeing jackboots. “We're witnessing an interesting cultural shift, people who demand that you respect them - or else. Then they wonder why they’re despised.”
We're witnessing an interesting cutural shift, people who demand that you respect them - or else. Then they wonder why they're despised— Ian O'Doherty (@ian_odoherty) October 24, 2016
In fact, the only cultural shift we're witnessing is people like O’Doherty slowly realizing that his rights aren't superior to anyone else's. Boy, do the rest of us already know how that feels, so he might want to pull up a chair.
And frankly, gay people are often despised at the outset, then they're despised for speaking out, then they're despised for seeking justice. That’s kind of the modus operandi for an oppressed minority. He clearly just wants them to shut up and take it and gets triggered when they refuse.
Will O’Doherty and all those who lament the court’s ruling be sent to Ballymaloe Cookery School for their cultural re-education? Will it be a sort of night of the long spatulas? This is, what do you call it, specious nonsense.
Equal protection under the law protects everyone equally, gay people and everyone else. The terms are in the title. Ashers is still quite free to believe what they wish to believe. That hasn't changed. It’s simply against the law to deny goods or services. That's a good law. It’s there for a reason, and it protects people.
Can you really argue that a person’s sexuality is not at issue whilst you try to discriminate against them based on its expression? You cannot, as Ashers discovered for the second time outside court in Belfast on Monday.
“Absolute disgrace, it’s their beliefs, the (gay) couple should have just accepted that and took their business elsewhere,” tweeted one Catholic commenter. “And should his parents' generation have just accepted that Catholics were second class citizens in Northern Ireland and not agitated for their civil rights?” I asked him. “That’s different,” he replied, but in fact it’s not.
@utv absolute disgrace, it's their beliefs, the couple should of just accepted that and took their business elsewhere— Adrian Kelly (@ady_kelly) October 24, 2016
The court did not accept the claim that to provide a cake to a paying gay customer would require Ashers to endorse or support gay marriage, which is contrary to their religious beliefs.
Many businesses supply t-shirts and banners with liberal or conservative political messaging, for example. No one believes they constitute the endorsement of the parent company.
Besides, Ashers regularly bake Halloween cakes with flying witches on broomsticks. No one thinks they're Satanists. They should at least try to be consistent.
And when it comes down to it, a majority of Christians on the island of Ireland have already voted for LGBT equality. So Ashers have lost the fig leaf that their actions are a result of their Christian beliefs. It's Ashers' own beliefs. Let’s be clear about that.
Ashers is perfectly entitled to believe that gay marriage is sinful, but they are a business and business services should be available to all paying customers, however constituted, the court has found. The law requires them to do just that.
Of course, Ashers has lamented today’s ruling, but critics reply that equality doesn't mean that Christians no longer have rights. It simply means they’re rights are not superior. It’s a bakery; it’s not a religious belief system. It exists to make wee cakes and buns, not pass divisive moral judgments on its paying customers.
When you open your doors to paying customers and you offer to bake decorated cakes you don’t get to say how some people celebrate love isn’t worthy.
How do you feel about the Ashers Bakery decision? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section, below.