Melanie McDonagh Melanie McDonagh

The troubling logic at the heart of the ‘Gay cake’ ruling

My late father was a pottery maker, and very good at it. Question is, if a Northern Protestant had come to his studio to request that he produce a teaset decorated with the legend: ‘Taigs Out of Ulster!’ or ‘Kick the Pope!’ perhaps with decoration to match, would my daddy have been obliged to oblige him on the basis that he was offering to make ceramics for all comers, regardless of their religious persuasion? Would the production of Protestant ceramics have been part of his offer to the teaset-buying community? Or could he have declined on the basis that this was offensive to his beliefs as a non-practising Roman Catholic?

I am sorry to say that my daddy would almost certainly have produced the teaset, with imaginative anti-papist flourishes, taken the man’s money, and been glad to get it. He would have flourished his bundle of Protestant tenners and told the story in every social gathering he attended. But should he have been obliged to? If he had been a more upright RC and told the client to keep his anti-papist cash, would that have compromised his right to trade, on the basis that ‘A Refusal Often Offends’? I think not, myself. The production of cups, saucers and plates would have been an impartial matter – turning down a customer on the basis of his religion would be wrong, as well as against every commercial instinct my daddy possessed. But the decoration, the legend: why, that is no mere mechanical matter. You are not an automaton when you write a slogan on your products; you engage with it.

Melanie McDonagh and Peter Tatchell discuss the ‘gay cake’ ruling

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