The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday struck down a legal challenge filed by a gay rights activist in the Northern Irish so-called gay cake case.
The court ruled that the complaint was inadmissible because the plaintiff, Gareth Lee, had failed to raise his European Convention of Human Rights arguments to the U.K. authorities and to use all the U.K.’s judicial pathways.
“The applicant had not invoked his Convention rights at any point in the domestic proceedings,” the ECHR judges ruled in a final decision. “Because he had failed to exhaust domestic remedies, the application was inadmissible.”
Lee, a 52-year-old British gay rights activist and member of the LGBTQ+ organization Queerspace, brought the case to the ECHR after the U.K. Supreme Court ruled that he was not discriminated against based on his sexual orientation, when a Christian-run bakery in Belfast refused to make him a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage.” Lee claimed the Supreme Court “failed to give appropriate weight” to him under the European Convention of Human Rights.
The row started in May 2014 when Lee ordered a £36.50 cake from the Ashers bakery with “Support Gay Marriage” and the Queerspace logo iced on it for an event held by campaigners for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.
The bakery owners, Daniel and Amy McArthur, who hold the religious belief that the only acceptable form of marriage is between a man and a woman, first took the order but later refused to make the cake because of the slogan “Support Gay Marriage.”
Lee launched a legal case against the owners and the bakery for sexual orientation discrimination. He won the case in a Northern Irish court but the McArthurs appealed the decision, arguing they didn’t discriminate against Lee.
The case eventually landed in the U.K. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2018 that Lee was not discriminated against as the McArthurs’ objection was “not to Mr. Lee, but to being required to promote the message on the cake.”