Northern Ireland ‘gay cake’ row: Everything you need to know about the case

The highest court in the UK is set to rule on Northern Ireland’s “gay cake” row later today.

The dispute began in 2014 when a Christian-run bakery refused to make a customer’s cake because it featured a slogan supporting same-sex marriage.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that has not passed a law to introduce same-sex marriage.

In May 2014, gay rights activist Gareth Lee, a member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space, placed an order at Ashers Baking Company for the cake and a payment of £36.50 was made in full.

The cake was commissioned for an event in Bangor, County Down, to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Two days later, Lee was phoned and told his order could not be completed because it “contradicted their religious beliefs” and that he would receive a full refund.

Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy McArthur hold a press conference after a judge ruled their Christian-run bakery discriminated against Gareth Lee in 2015 (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The customer complained to watchdog Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission, which alleged the bakery had discriminated against Lee on the grounds of his sexual orientation.

The Equality Commission said the case “raises issues of public importance regarding the extent to which suppliers of goods and services can refuse service on grounds of sexual orientation, religious belief and/or political opinion”.

Lee sued Ashers Baking Company for discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and political beliefs, supported by the Equality Commission.

A branch of Ashers Baking Company (Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images)

Ashers has argued against alleged discrimination on the grounds of religious freedom and has been provided with legal assistance by the Christian Institute.

In 2015, a court case opened in Belfast in which Lee said the bakery’s refusal to make the cake made him feel like a “lesser person”. However, the bakery said their decision was based on the message on the cake and not the customer.

The judge ruled against Ashers Baking Company, saying the company had “unlawfully discriminated”.

In 2016, the Ashers launched an appeal against the ruling which it lost.

The following year, the bakery announced it would take its appeal to the Supreme Court.

In October 2018, the bakery owners won their appeal after the court ruled their refusal to make the cake was not discriminatory.