Photo service withholds images of ‘gay cake’ bakery owners in protest
Agency admits ‘tit for tat’ retaliation following UK supreme court ruling in Ashers case
A photography service is withholding images it took of the owners of the Belfast bakery at the centre of the “gay cake” legal row in protest at a ruling in the case.
The service, Perfocal, said it had taken the decision to withhold the images it was hired to take by the Christian Institute from the client to highlight the potential negative effects of a UK supreme court decision in the case.
On Wednesday, the UK’s highest court found that Ashers bakery, whose owners Daniel and Amy McArthur are Christians, did not discriminate against a gay man when it refused to bake a cake with a message supporting gay marriage.
After initially accepting his order, Ms McArthur subsequently told the man, Gareth Lee, that Ashers could not in conscience produce such a cake and gave him a refund.
In a statement posted on Perfocal's site on Thursday, company founder Tony Xu said one of the service’s photographers had been hired to take photographs of a couple outside the UK supreme court on Wednesday for a “business event”.
The service subsequently discovered the couple in question was Daniel and Amy McArthur.
“We later found out that the customer was [UK] charity and lobby group Christian Institute, paying all fees for the family that owned the bakery embroiled in a four-year-long legal case after taking a booking and then refusing to make a cake with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
“It’s been accepted in the highest court in the UK that private companies can accept bookings and then, if they feel that it goes against their morals, refuse that booking . . . and it not be counted as discriminatory.
“As such, I have made the decision to refuse to hand over the photographs.
“We appreciate that this looks like tit for tat, and it is. We are proud to have been booked for many religious ceremonies, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim celebrations. We’ve also been booked often for same-sex weddings.
“In short, we welcome customers from all backgrounds.”
Mr Xu said that once the photographer became aware of the nature of the shoot on Wednesday they became uncomfortable.
“This isn’t just about standing up against discrimination. I hope our stance serves as an example of exactly where this kind of judgement could lead us. Where does it end?”
Mr Xu added that the Christian Institute had been refunded, and the photographer involved had been paid for the job despite the cancelled booking.