Recently, there has been a lot of stories about businesses refusing customers based on sexual orientation. A printing firm in Drogheda, Co. Louth, refused to print invitations to a civil ceremony between two men. A cake shop in Belfast refused to make a cake which bared a slogan supporting gay rights.
Both businesses stated the reason behind their refusals was religious beliefs and therefore this was not discriminatory. I beg to differ. According to the Irish Constitution, discrimination is described as the treatment of a person in a less favourable way than another person is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation on any of the following nine grounds:
- marital status
- family status
- sexual orientation
- membership of the Traveller community
Therefore, refusing to sell someone a cake because he is gay is discrimination. Refusing to print civil partnership invitations because the union will be between two men is discrimination. There is no grey area on this matter. For far too long, a section of Irish society has used religion as a crutch to remain discriminatory and old fashioned.
Now don’t get me wrong, religion and faith should be respected, and definitely has a place in Irish society. I have the utmost respect for anyone with great faith, because it shows great strength of character. I know plenty of people who are devout to their faiths, and can still live and let live. The problem occurs when people begin to use religion as a means to segregate society. The Bible says “do to others what you would have them do to you”. It does not say “do to others what you would have them do to you – unless they are a flaming homosexual”. In Ireland, the Catholic Church should teach it’s members to live and treat people equally. Instead, the Catholic Church recently announced they will be supporting the “Vote No” campaign in the upcoming Marriage Equality referendum – hardly the epitome of equality.
In 2015, is it too much to have a secular state? Where the Government and the Catholic Church are two separate entities? Although they may say they are, they certainly don’t act like it. Take the coming Easter holidays for example. Most of the country will shut down this Friday as it is Good Friday – the day Jesus Christ was crucified. Pubs will shut their doors, offices turn off their lights, and schools take a two week holiday. Even Leinster House will shut down for the weekend. How does this make sense when a large proportion of the Irish public do not even celebrate Easter? Is it fair that these people should lose pay, business and education because of a belief which isn’t theirs? Back to our “friends” in the retail industry; should they decline business because their customers’ views are different to theirs? Not in my book.
Most people are beginning to realise that sexual orientation is not something you choose, the same as skin colour. If these businesses refused customers because they were black or because they were disabled, this would be a whole different story. However, because our state is interlinked with the Catholic Church, when an issue that the Catholic Church does not agree with occurs (such as sexual orientation), it becomes a grey area and discrimination occurs. This should not happen in 2015.
My personal beliefs aside, I have known since an early age that I wanted to work in the world of business. I currently work for a company which engages third level students to set up their own businesses and enterprises. To refuse a customer based on their sexual orientation shows a lack of understanding of business principles. My money is as good as your money. I earned it through working hard, and I should be allowed to spend it however I choose.
The refusal also shows a that the business does not understand the current market. When these businesses made these bold statements, I am sure they cut their customer base in half. It has been proven that gay people show high brand loyalty. That’s why Cher is on her 52nd farewell tour.
On a side note, imagine the boom in the economy if gay marriage is legal in Ireland. There are so many gay people waiting to get married that new hotels and venues would have to be built just to cope with the demand! Print shops would be out the door with images of two men kissing on invitations. Cake shops would be inundated with requests for cake toppers with two brides on them.
In short, if we Vote Yes on May 22nd and live in a secular society, Ireland would never go into recession again.