During an interview with BBC’s Newsnight, Patrick Stewart defended an Irish bakery who refused to decorate a cake to say “Support Gay Marriage,” due to their religious beliefs. The actor called it “a deliciously difficult subject” because he found himself on the side of the bakers. “I would support their rights to say, ‘No, this is personally offensive to my beliefs, I will not do it,’ he said. Gay rights activist Gareth Lee commissioned Ashers Baking Co., a Christian-owned bakery in Northern Ireland, to make the cake in 2014. When the owners refused, saying it conflicted with their beliefs, Lee sued and won the case. The bakery now plans to appeal the decision, reports The Independent.
While fans are split on Stewart’s decision to back the owners of the bakery, no one can deny the actor’s position as a strong ally of gay rights. Stewart has been vocal with his support for the LGBT community in the past and also has what might be the world’s greatest friendship with openly gay actor Ian McKellen, his co-star from the X-Men film series. McKellen officiated Stewart’s wedding to Sunny Ozell in 2013.
Stewart clarified his position on the Ashers Bakery case on Facebook:
As part of my advocacy for Amnesty International, I gave an interview on a number of subjects related to human rights, civil rights and freedom of speech. During the interview, I was asked about the Irish bakers who refused to put a message on a cake which supported marriage equality, because of their beliefs. In my view, this particular matter was not about discrimination, but rather personal freedoms and what constitutes them, including the freedom to object. Both equality and freedom of speech are fundamental rights—and this case underscores how we need to ensure one isn’t compromised in the pursuit of the other.
I know many disagree with my sentiments, including the courts. I respect and understand their position, especially in this important climate where the tides of prejudices and inequality are (thankfully) turning. What I cannot respect is that some have conflated my position on this single matter to assume I’m anti-equality or that I share the personal beliefs of the bakers. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be further from the truth. I have long championed the rights of the LGBT community, because equality should not only be, as the people of Ireland powerfully showed the world, universally embraced, but treasured.
“When I look back to my early career and early experience, my ease and comfort being in the company of and intimately close with gay and lesbian colleagues and friends was always, for me, the most natural, and I might even say at times appealing aspects of the life I was living,” Stewart told The Advocate in January. “I think this is where the theater is such an appealing world, because it embraces everything and always has. So there was never a moment where I made an intellectual choice that I would be a supporter of gay civil rights. It was always a natural and uncomplicated choice.”
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