Notorious Northern Irish bakery Ashers have posted profits of £1.5m for 2016 – despite having breached equality laws by refusing to bake a cake with a message supporting marriage equality.
Ashers Bakery, a chain with seven outlets throughout Northern Ireland run by the staunchly religious McArthur family, became the focus of international headlines in 2015 after staff refused to bake a cake which contained an image of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie and a message saying ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
Staff had initial accepted the ordered, placed by LGBT activist Gareth Lee in 2014, before calling Lee afterwards to tell him the message and graphic clashed with their religious beliefs.
Lee, testifying in Belfast’s Laganside Court in May 2015, said that the refusal made him feel like “a lesser person.”
The court ultimately found that Ashers had discriminated against Lee on grounds of sexual orientation contrary to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2006. A subsequent appeal by the bakery against was unsuccessful, and Ashers were fined £500.
Despite the negative publicity arising from the case, Ashers has posted accumulated profits of £1.5m for 2016 – a profit of £170,500 over 2015’s revenue.
But Ashers better hang on to that cash after refusing another order for a ‘gay’ cake this week. Northern Irishwoman Grainne McCann ordered a cake celebrating the engagement of her friends Joe and Andy through the company’s online store last month, only to have the order cancelled the following day.
“In my view, by turning away business based on the sexual orientation of the consumer they risk being sued again,” McCann told the Belfast Telegraph.
“My friends and I don’t want to sue — Andy and Joe want to focus on their forthcoming happy day — but others might want to take action.”
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