The revelation was a bit of a surprise to many Stewart fans, given his previous pro-LGBT statements. The issue, as raised to Patrick on Newsnight, was about one’s ability to say no if certain gay issues interfered with one’s religious rights. More specifically, Patrick was asked about an ongoing case involving Irish bakers who were fined for refusing to bake a Bert and Ernie cake. The cake was to have the message “support gay marriage” written on top. When the bakers refused to make the cake featuring the message, they were hit with a $760 discrimination fine. Stewart doesn’t think that was right.
He said, “I found myself on the side of the bakers.”
“It was not because this was a gay couple that they objected, it was not because they were going to be celebrating some sort of marriage or an agreement between them. It was the actual words on the cake they objected to. Because they find the words offensive.”
Patrick thinks that sometimes LGBT advocates can be “too determined” and encroach on the rights of others. In cases like these, he believes a person should have “the right to say no” to any political message with which they don’t personally agree.
“I would support their rights to say no, this is personally offensive to my beliefs, I will not do it.”
It isn’t the first time that Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie have been at the center of same-sex marriage-related controversy.
The New Yorker caused quite a stir when the magazine featured the iconic puppet duo on the cover. The implication was that they were a gay couple, eagerly awaiting the failure of the Defense of Marriage Act. Some people were not amused.
— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) March 26, 2015
When it comes to Bert and Ernie, people seem determined to use them as the perfect example of a gay couple. However, Sesame Street released a statement back in 2011 that this just was not the case.
“They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics.
They remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
Update: As for Patrick Stewart, he took to Facebook to clarify his position on the matter.
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.
[Image Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images]