The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal has ruled that it was direct associative discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation for a bakery to refuse to supply a cake with a slogan supporting gay marriage.
It concluded that, because a heterosexual person requesting such a cake would also have been refused, it could not be direct discrimination on the grounds of the claimant's sexual orientation. However, the Court noted the exact correspondence between those of the particular sexual orientation and those in respect of whom the message supported the right to marry, and concluded that the refusal was due to the claimant's association with the gay and bisexual community at large.
The decision seems to extend the ambit of association claims, which have previously focussed on association with particular individuals having a protected characteristic; it suggests that there may be protection against direct discrimination because of support for causes aligned with a particular 'community' having a protected characteristic. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has been sought. (Lee v McArthur and Ashers Baking Company)