It’s a curious thing discrimination. None of us want to practise it, or at least to be seen to practise it, and we are all too ready to call it out when we see it. Yet in our eagerness to holler ‘racist/sexist/homophobe [delete as applicable]’ at people we consider idiots, we are sometimes guilty of the very intolerance we deplore in them.
So when a court hands down a judgement against a baker who won’t bake a ‘gay-friendly’ cake, as happened in Northern Ireland today, it’s easy to pile in to the ‘homophobic &?£@ing b&stards (I mean it’s a bloody cake for God’s sake, no-one’s making you shag the guy)’ and think justice has been done. But has it really? Haven’t we just crossed a line? It’s no longer enough simply to not discriminate, buddy. We, the liberals, will force you to actively promote our ideals. The judged have become the judgemental.
There is no suggestion the bakers refused to serve the customer because of his sexuality – “No battenberg for you batty boy! We sell puff pastries, not pastries for puffs!” They simply refused to tacitly endorse a viewpoint they didn’t share; and who really wants a law that forces them to do otherwise?
Important political and religious freedoms are at stake here. In the context of the current referendum on gay marriage in the Republic, this is a political issue, with the religious divisions in Northern Ireland an added complexity. You can mock those who are against gay marriage. That is your freedom. Is it not their freedom to not bake a cake in the shape of your opinions?
Shouldn’t a Labour-voting printer be able to turn down a run of UKIP posters? How about the feminist author asked to ghost-write for Jeremy Clarkson? What does the Asian clothing manufacturer do when the BNP want a new range of ‘send the buggers back’ t-shirts?
Those of a ‘right-on’ persuasion would be horrified if the boot were on the other foot like that. So spare a thought for those already bewildered, the-end-is-nigh types who see the social tide turning against them. There are better ways to persuade them that the world isn’t going to hell in a pink, spangly, dildo-festooned handcart than bringing petty ‘landmark’ discrimination cases against them in court.
The judge made the ruling she had to under the law. But it is a curiously illiberal path to liberation.