At the end of the day, if you went in there and two days later they said, ‘We don’t want to make your cakes because of our beliefs’, you’d just never go back to that shop and you’d probably say to all your gay friends, ‘Don’t go there, they’re anti-gay’, and boycott it.
What about if somebody walked in and said I want a cake and I want the whole Islamic State on it and how I support it and how I support them killing our people. Because it’s a business, do they have to make it? And if they turn around and say they’re not making it, we’d all applaud it.
Let’s take the first paragraph – which isn’t the one that got Coleen into trouble. What Coleen seems to be saying is that gay people who are discriminated against should just accept that there are certain doors that are not open to them – like the door to the local bakery. It’s difficult to imagine that she would say the same thing if her local branch of Greggs said to her that they wouldn’t serve her because she was female, or if they told fellow panellist Jamelia that she couldn’t buy a cake from them because of the colour of her skin.
That said, some of the commentary around the Ashers case from people who disagree with the bakery’s stance has asked whether this was really the right battleground on which to fight. Let’s give Coleen the benefit of the doubt and say that this was the point that she was trying to make.
Then there’s the second paragraph. Oh dear. This is the one which seems to say that being in favour of same sex marriage is on the same level as being in favour of a group of people who go round killing others. This really wasn’t a comparison that was going to do her any favours.
But now that she’s opened that door, we have to ask — could a supporter of Islamic State be said to be a member of a religion or to hold a belief that would be protected under s45 of The Equality Act 2006? Arguably, yes they could. It’s a faith-based movement and although the beliefs of Islamic State aren’t what the rest of the world would view as the true beliefs of Islam, that doesn’t stop them from being capable of protection under the Equality Act.
Meanwhile, viewers are apparently up in arms and calling for Coleen to be sacked, which seems a bit much. There should be room for debate on these issues without people losing their jobs, and I think the gay rights movement is robust enough to survive Coleen’s comments.