Gay cake case to be heard at Supreme Court sitting in Belfast

02 May, 2018, 01:46 | Author: Gregory Stephens
  • Gay cake case to be heard at Supreme Court sitting in Belfast

The Christian owners of a Belfast bakery who refused to make a cake promoting gay marriage are being forced to act against their consciences and religious beliefs, the supreme court has been told.

A lower court ruled the decision of family-run Ashers not to bake the product iced with the slogan Support Gay Marriage in 2014 was discriminatory after a legal challenge supported by Northern Ireland's Equality Commission.

Mrs McArthur has said she cancelled the order because of her concerns about the slogan, which she said goes against the family's Christian beliefs, not because of Mr Lee's sexual orientation.

Northern Ireland's publicly funded Equality Commission brought a civil action, alleging that the bakery breached its statutory duty not to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Mr Lee won the case, with a judge ruling that there was unlawful direct discrimination by the bakery.

Accompanied by his wife Amy, who is expecting their fourth child, Mr McArthur said four years ago his family's business was asked to use their "creative skills to endorse a message at odds with everything we believe - and were sued because we said we couldn't do that".

At the centre of this case is Ashers, a seven-shop bakery business in Belfast whose name derives from Genesis 49:20: "Bread from Asher shall be rich, and he shall yield royal dainties".

He said people across society were anxious about what this could mean.

The controversy first flared when Mr Lee, a member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space, ordered a cake featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia.

It was accepted and he paid in full but, two days later, the company called to say it could not proceed due to the message requested.

On Tuesday Mr Scoffield said the case, a simple transaction, raised an issue of principle since those with deeply-held religious or philosophical convictions could be compelled to act against their beliefs.

The firm argued that the cake's message was against the bakers' religious views.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where same-sex marriage is outlawed, with Theresa May's DUP allies staunch opponents of the practice.

This was backed up by the District Court and the High Court. Five Supreme Court judges will hear the arguments in Belfast later on Tuesday.



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