Row over ‘gay’ Bert and Ernie cake goes to court

PinkNews logo on a pink background surrounded by illustrated line drawings of a rainbow, pride flag, unicorn and more.

A case surrounding a bakery which refused to bake a pro-same-sex marriage cake has gone to court in Northern Ireland.

Last July, Ashers Baking Company – based in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland – refused the request of gay rights activist Gareth Lee for a cake showing the message ‘Support Gay Marriage’ above an image of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie.

The bakery vowed to “make a stand” after it was found to have broken anti-discrimination laws, and the Equality Commission took the company to court after the bakery rejected a legal settlement.

Bakery owner Daniel McArthur spoke to protesters outside the 2,200-capacity Waterfront Hall in Belfast earlier this week, some of who were unable to get seats inside, and vowed to fight on.

Belfast County Court heard today as proceedings started that the case will not be won by whichever side shouts the loudest, as the packed public gallery sat in silence, reports the Belfast Telegraph.

Robin Allen QC, representing Mr Lee said, despite a number of politicians and activists having spoken out in favour of the bakery including First Minister Peter Robinson, said: “Law must not be determined by those who shout loudest.”

He went on to tell the court that the Equality Act “does not provide exemption for scruples”, and that “even religious bodies, if they venture into commercial practices, cannot discriminate.”

Continuing, he said: “large businesses like Ashers … Cannot be allowed to break contracts with individuals”.

“If that’s allowed the rule of law is worth nothing. The rule of law says there shall be no discrimination in the commercial sphere”

First Minister Peter Robinson earlier this week lambasted the Equality Commission for spending funds to pursue the case.

In response to the row, the Democratic Unionist Party has introduced a bill that would exempt religious people from equality laws.