Gay cake appeal: Christian bakers Ashers lose legal challenge as court upholds discrimination ruling

‘The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either’

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The Independent Online

The Christian bakers found to have discriminated against a gay man by refusing to ice a "gay cake" have lost their appeal against the ruling.

The owners of Belfast-based Ashers refused an order placed by gay activist Gareth Lee, claiming the message was inconsistent with their “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

They were found to have breached equality legislation following a high-profile court case in Belfast last year. 

Mr Lee, a member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space, had wanted a cake featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie with the phrase “Support Gay Marriage” for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia.

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Gay rights activist Gareth Lee at Belfast County Court on 26 March 2015 (PA)

He paid the full £36.50 to Ashers’ Belfast city centre branch for the cake, but was telephoned two days later and told the company could not fulfil his order.

Through the legal proceedings, Daniel McArthur, the company's general manager, insisted Mr Lee’s sexuality was never an issue, rather the message he wanted the bakery to create.

Mr Lee claimed the episode left him feeling like a lesser person.

In the original case, District Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that religious beliefs could not dictate the law and ordered the firm to pay damages of £500.

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The McArthur family, owners of the Ashers Baking Company (PA)

Delivering the appeal judgment, Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said Ashers had directly discriminated.

He rejected the argument that the bakery would be endorsing the slogan by baking the cake.

“The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either,” he said.

Ashers, a name with Biblical connotations, has six branches, employs more than 80 people and delivers across the UK and Ireland.

Throughout the legal battle they have been supported by The Christian Institute, which has organised public rallies and garnered financial backing for the case.

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