Northern Ireland news

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

Daniel McArthur from the family-run firm Ashers on his way into court in Belfast this morning with his wife Amy. Picture by Hugh Russell 

The general manager of Ashers Baking Company has said “some people want the law to make us support something with which we disagree” as the long-running ‘gay cake’ case went before the UK Supreme Court, sitting in Belfast today 

Ashers Bakery are challenging the ruling over their decision in 2014 not to make a cake iced with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage". 

Ahead of the two-day hearing, Daniel McArthur said that the case has been hard on his family.

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."

The cake order was placed at its Belfast shop by gay rights activist Gareth Lee.

Mr McArthur said: “We didn’t say no because of the customer; we’d served him before, we’d serve him again. It was because of the message. This has always been about the message.

“We’d rather it hadn’t come to this. But the Equality Commission has pushed for an interpretation of the law which extinguishes conscience.

“They seem to think that some people are more equal than others.

Ashers Bakery was fined after refusing to bake a cake with the slogan 'Support Gay Marriage'

“This is not what the law is designed to do. And it’s not just us that feel this way. Lots of people are worried about what all this could mean.

“The general public can see this and that is why they have supported us so strongly for so long.

“We’re often asked how this case has impacted us as a family. It’s been hard.

"But we’re not on our own and we continue to trust daily in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to equip us with everything we need.

The case against Ashers was taken by Mr Lee with support from Northern Ireland's Equality Commission.

Ashers bakery on Royal Avenue in Belfast. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association 

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.

He placed the order in person at Ashers' Belfast city centre branch in May 2014.

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.

In the original court case, District Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that religious beliefs could not dictate the law and ordered the firm to pay damages of £500.

Mounting an appeal, Ashers contended that it never had an issue with Mr Lee's sexuality, rather the message he was seeking to put on the cake.

The business said the slogan was inconsistent with their deeply-held religious beliefs.

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