Declaring that “both equality and freedom of speech are fundamental rights,” actor and outspoken LGBT ally Patrick Stewart took to Facebook to share an eloquent defense and explanation of his stance in the controversy surrounding an antigay bakery in Northern Ireland.
“In my view, this particular matter was not about discrimination, but rather personal freedoms and what constitutes them, including the freedom to object,” Stewart wrote Friday.
The actor, best known for his role as Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation, told the BBC last week that he supports the right of a U.K. bakery chain owned by a Christian couple to refuse to make a cake with a pro-marriage equality message.
Ashers Bakery is appealing a court ruling that determined the Belfast-based shop discriminated against a customer who ordered the cake with images of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street accompanied by the words “Support gay marriage.”
Stewart’s Facebook post explained that he expressed his support of the bakers during a wide-ranging discussion of his support for Advocacy International, and elaborated on why he sees this as proof that freedom of speech is just as important as broader equality:
“…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.”
Stewart, a straight ally who in January declared that"supporting gay rights is natural," said nobody should be forced to write something they disagree with. He further took issue with those who objected to his expression of support for Daniel McArthur and his wife, Amy, the Christian owners of Ashers:
“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.”
Here is Stewart’s entire Facebook message: