Two recent decisions from the English and Northern Ireland county courts serve as a useful reminder to businesses of the application of anti-discrimination legislation in the provision of goods, services and facilities to the public.
Refusal to make ‘gay marriage’ cake was direct sexual orientation discrimination
In Lee v Ashers Baking Ltd, a bakery refused to make a cake for a customer which contained an image and slogan in support of gay marriage. The Northern Ireland county court held that this was direct discrimination because same sex marriage is inextricably linked to sexual orientation. It also held that the bakery could not take advantage of the limited exemption from discrimination available for religious organisations because, despite the bakery owners’ genuine religious beliefs, they were conducting a business for profit. The bakery has announced that it is appealing this decision.
Refusing pub entry to Travellers and Gypsies was direct race discrimination
In Traveller Movement and others v JD Wetherspoon a pub refused entry to a group of Irish Travellers, Romani Gypsies and their companions. The Central London country court held that this was direct race discrimination because the pub made stereotypical assumptions that Irish Travellers and Romany Gypsies were likely to cause disorder. The Travellers' and Gypsies’ companions also succeeded in their claims for associative direct discrimination, as they were refused entry because they were with the Travellers and Gypsies. Additional claims for harassment were dismissed, however, because the door security team did not misconduct themselves when refusing entry.
Issues for businesses
These are the latest high profile reported cases regarding discrimination in the goods, services and facilities arena. Whilst these sorts of claim remain uncommon, businesses may wish to review their arrangements to ensure that they meet equality law requirements in this context.