Ruling to be made in ‘gay cake’ bakery row

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A judge is expected later this morning in a case surrounding a Christian bakery which refused to make a pro-same-sex marriage ruling.

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, on the second day of hearings, was told by David Schoffield QC, representing the McArthur family, that the bakery did not discriminate, and he called the action from the Equality Commission a “knee-jerk” reaction.

He said: “The defendants neither knew, nor cared about Mr Lee’s sexual orientation or his religious beliefs, if any, or his political opinions,” he told the court.

“The reason why the order was declined was because of the content and had nothing to do with a feature of the person making the order, or those which he was associated.”

Speaking under cross-examination by Robin Allen QC, representing Mr Lee, Mrs McArthur spoke of her religious beliefs.

She said she “did not want to have a confrontation” with Mr Lee, which is why she initially took the order for the cake, knowing she would have to turn him down.

Referring to a promotional leaflet advertising Halloween cakes, David Schoffield said: “Witches are hardly consistent with promoting Christian beliefs.”

First Minister Peter Robinson earlier this year 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.