Ashers judgement does not provide an excuse for discrimination, says Armstrong

Alliance Chief Whip Kellie Armstrong has said today’s Ashers judgement does not “provide an excuse for discrimination” for businesses after the Supreme Court ruled in its favour.Ms Armstrong was speaking after the bakery firm won its appeal over a previous ruling that its refusal to make a cake backing marriage equality was discriminatory.

“Alliance’s preference was this case had not ended up in court but rather the issues resolved through mediation,” she said.

“We are a party of human rights and equality, and protections in both regards should reinforce each other. But a perceived clash occurs that creates the need for mature reflection as to how the state can ensure equality protections and non-discrimination across all grounds, including both political opinion and sexual orientation, while respecting everyone’s right to freedom of expression. For example, freedom of religion must also include freedom from religion. Equality protections are there for a good reason to ensure respect and inclusion, and to avoid direct or indirect discrimination.

“It is important to stress this is a judgement in a complicated case and in a very limited and particular context. This does not open a carte blanche for businesses or any other provider of services to set aside their equality responsibilities or provide an excuse for discrimination. Nor does it create a de facto ‘conscience clause’, and Alliance remains opposed to any such exemption either through the backdoor or via legislation.”

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