A judge in Belfast has found that a bakery discriminated against a homosexual by refusing to bake a cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage.
Ashers Baking Company, which is owned and run by the McArthur family, who are Christians, declined an order from a gay rights activist asking for a cake featuring the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie with a slogan saying ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
Marriage between people of the same sex is illegal in Northern Ireland. In April 2014 the Stormont Assembly rejected a Sinn Fein motion to change the definition of marriage for the third time in eighteen months. In April 2015 the Assembly rejected yet another Sinn Fein motion for ‘gay marriage’.
Despite that, the judge found Ashers Bakery had discriminated against one Gareth Lee on the grounds of sexual orientation as well as his political beliefs.
The cake was baked and iced by another firm. Cllr Andrew Muir (Alliance Party) cut the cake in an event held by ‘QueerSpace’ last year.
Damages of £500 have already been agreed between the law firms representing Ashers and Mr Lee.
The case was brought by Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission.
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuiness tweeted: “Asher’s bakery judgement a good result for equality, gay people have for far too long been discriminated against. We and the law on their side.”
But unionist politicians disagreed.
DUP MLA Paul Givan, who has proposed that lawmakers in the Northern Ireland Assembly introduce a “conscience clause” as a result of the Ashers case, said many Christians would view the ruling as “an attack” on their religious convictions.
“What we cannot have is a hierarchy of rights, and today there’s a clear hierarchy being established that gay rights are more important than the rights of people to hold religious beliefs,” Mr Givan added.
His party colleague David McIlveen tweeted: “Utterly sickened that a Christian owned business has been hauled over the coals for refusing to promote something that is not legal in NI.”
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said it was “a dark day for justice and religious freedom in Northern Ireland”.
Speaking outside Belfast County Court ahead of the ruling, Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur said: “We happily serve everyone but we cannot promote a cause that goes against what the Bible says about marriage.
“We have tried to be guided in our actions by our Christian beliefs.”
Christian campaigners will be looking not just to the Stormont Assembly but also to the UK Government to ensure business peoples’ Christian conscience is supported.
See 11th July 2014: Ashers Baking ‘Discriminated’
Please note that persons wishing to comment on this story must enter a valid email address. Comments from persons leaving fictitious email addresses will be trashed.