Northern Ireland news

Gay cake case: Ashers baking company to appeal to Supreme Court

Daniel McArthur, manager of Ashers Baking Company, with his wife Amy and daughter Robyn. Picture by Justin Kernoghan, Photopress

A CHRISTIAN baking company found to have unlawfully refused to make a pro-gay marriage cake is to launch an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Ashers Baking Company confirmed yesterday it would launch the appeal after senior judges ruled earlier this week that Attorney General John Larkin could not refer the case to the Supreme Court.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan held that Mr Larkin's legal bid came too late.

Mr Larkin was seeking to invoke his powers to refer the verdict against Ashers under identified issues of devolution.

Ashers is run by the McArthur family who are being backed in their legal battle by The Christian Institute.

The institute's spokesman said: "Ashers Baking Company will take the necessary legal steps to instigate a Supreme Court appeal on this crucially important matter as soon as possible and papers must be lodged early in the New Year."

In October the Court of Appeal upheld a finding that the McArthur family directly discriminated against customer Gareth Lee due to his sexuality.

The gay rights activist sued after his order was declined at the company's Belfast city centre shop in May 2014.

Mr Lee had requested a cake depicting Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie below the motto 'Support Gay Marriage' for an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia.

Bosses at the bakery refunded his money for the order because the message went against their Christian faith.

The family insist their problem was with the cake and not the customer.

But Mr Lee claimed he was left feeling like a lesser person.

Last year Belfast County Court held that the bakery had unlawfully discriminated against him on grounds of sexual orientation and religious belief or political opinion.

The firm was also ordered to pay £500 compensation to Mr Lee.

Lawyers for the McArthurs appealed the ruling, arguing it would have been sinful for them to complete the order.

Mr Larkin backed the family's case by contending that it was wrong to force them to express a political view in conflict with their faith.

But judges held that the company cannot provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation.

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