The appeal of Belfast-based Asher’s Bakery, who were found guilty of discrimination after refusing to bake sporting a pro marriage equality message, has been adjourned following intervention by the Attorney General.
The appeal hearing has been rescheduled for May 9, after Attorney General John Larkin made a last-minute request to make representation in the case about any potential conflict between the region’s equality legislation and European human rights laws, reports Belfast Telegraph.
Presiding judge Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan adjourned court proceedings until May 9, when it will sit for 4 days.
On May 19 last year, District Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that Ashers had unlawfully discriminated against Gareth Lee based on the grounds of his sexual orientation.
Lee, a worker at LGBT centre QueerSpace, had placed an order for the cake bearing the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’ above an image of Sesame Street’s Burt and Ernie. The cake was intended for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia.
Karen McArthur, one of the business’s founders, initially accepted the order for the cake, before calling Lee two days later to tell him the message and graphic clashed with their religious beliefs.
Lee testified that the refusal made him feel like “a lesser person.”
Judge Brownlie told the court that as Ashers are “conducting a business for profit”, and not a religious group, they are not exempt from discrimination law. She accepted that Ashers have “genuine and deeply held” religious views, but said they were not above the law, reports BBC.com.
Arguing the case Robin Allen QC representing Lee told the court, “But for the word ‘gay’ this order would have been fulfilled. This case is direct discrimination.”
Ashers were ordered to pay damages of £500.
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