Peter Tatchell has form as being a clear thinker and one who is able to see through the morass of argument and counter argument to see the moral principles at the core of current debates. therefore when he announces that he has changed his opinion on an issue we should pay heed. He has changed his mind over the issue of the Christian bakers and the gay wedding cake. He had previously supported the penalization of the Christian bakers Ashers, in Belfast, who had refused to bake a wedding cake which had a pro-gay marriage slogan. However, Mr Tatchell has argued in a piece in the Guardian that, while it is correct to oppose discrimination against people it is wrong to take legal action against the discrimination against ideas.
He is of course correct; our freedom to think as we will is the greatest right we have. It should not be constrained by any agencies. While some of our acts may be considered unlawful none of our thoughts should be. As Mr Tatchell recognizes, there was no discrimination against the claimants per se, rather the Ashers had refused to promote an idea to which they objected. If the current court ruling stands, the logic is that it would be illegal for a Muslim printer to reject work printing posters with comic portrayals of Mohammed, or for a Jewish baker to reject making a cake with holocaust denial slogans.
Obviously this case was not brought following any genuine act of discrimination and true feeling of hurt. The cake was designed and offered to a Christian bakery quite deliberately to try and create a legal case in the hope that this would shift and move the law. The intention, no doubt, was to try to make society less bigoted by using the law to signpost good behaviour. However, the law of unintended consequences should never be forgotten. It is precisely minorities who benefit most from recognition of the rights to freedom of thought and freedom of association. These are the rights that protect them from the majority’s desire to compel good and appropriate behaviour as society currently defines it. We must reject attempts to interfere with these freedoms no matter how well intentioned they may appear to be.