Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Captain Jean-Luc Picard was known throughout the galaxy for his level head, fair mind, and diplomatic skill. Last week, it became apparent he may have borrowed those traits from the actor who portrayed him, as Sir Patrick Stewart took on an issue far stickier than any interstellar debate Picard had to face.
Stewart ruffled feathers last Friday by telling a BBC news program that he supported the Christian owners of a Northern Ireland bakery in their fight against the UK government over gay-themed cake. Colin and Karen McArthur, owners of the Ashers Baking Company, were convicted last week of discrimination and ordered to pay a fine equivalent to US $765 for refusing to decorate a cake with the words “Support Gay Marriage” above an image of Bert and Ernie, two characters from the PBS children’s show Sesame Street.
Stewart, a longtime activist for LGBT acceptance and gay marriage, said that no matter how strongly he believes in a cause, he supports the rights of others to disagree. He said the government’s attempt to force the bakers to decorate a cake with words that violate their deeply held beliefs was wrong.
“You’ve picked a deliciously difficult subject because, finally, I found myself on the side of the bakers,” Stewart told the BBC. “It was not because this was a gay couple that they objected. It was not because they were going to be celebrating some kind of marriage or agreement between them. It was the actual words on the cake that they objected to. They found them offensive.”