Both clients took the service provider to court and in the Ashers case the complainant won – but Dr Davidson lost. A father-of-two, who has been married for 37 years, Dr Davidson said he is “a Christian man who has experienced homosexual issues but no longer has those feelings”. In 2012 Stonewall published adverts on London buses which read: “Some people are gay. Get over it!” Dr Davidson, who runs the Core Issues Trust, booked adverts in response, which read: “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!” Then-mayor of London Boris Johnson said he had blocked Dr Davidson’s adverts and the Co Down man appealed to the High Court. A judge found that he had a right not to be discriminated against due to his sexual orientation – but that the ban was lawful because his adverts would “cause grave offence”.
In contrast, the Court of Appeal in Belfast has upheld a decision that Ashers bakery customer Gareth Lee had been discriminated against for being gay, after the bakery refused to make him a cake with a gay marriage slogan. Dr Davidson said: “The reason I lost while Gareth Lee won is because the courts are seeking to protect the idea of being ‘born gay’, however there is increasing scientific evidence that sexuality is fluid.” Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said he “fundamentally” disagreed with Mike Davidson and the Core Issues Trust. “Their bid to cure gay people and their claims their therapies work are morally wrong – and they do not work,” he said.
“However the slogan Mike wanted on a London bus did not purport to cure gay people. “Offensive though his message was, in a free society he should have the right to publish an anti-gay message in the same way that gay people should have the right to publish a pro-gay message. “The court ruled that his message was offensive – but offense is not a sufficient threshold in a democratic society to merit a ban. “The two cases have some similarities; neither involved denying a service to a gay person but were about the promotion of an idea and a consequential censorship of an idea. “Discrimination against people is always wrong but discrimination against ideas is valid in a free society.”
Meanwhile, DUP MP Sammy Wilson noted that judges in the Ashers appeal this week pointed out that the Equality Commission offered no support to the bakery. To reinforce the “vindictive” action, he said, the commission is pursuing Ashers for full legal costs which is “not usual” and will be seen as “a petty attempt to punish”. He also slammed Chief Commissioner Michael Wardlow for saying that Christians who don’t like the Ashers ruling should get out of business. But an Equality Commission spokesman replied that this week’s judgement against Ashers drew on Northern Ireland legislation, case law and European and international judgments. “The commission’s actions were neither a targeting nor persecution of Christians, nor actions and decisions which will drive Christians out of the public sphere,” he added.