The McArthur family, owners of Ashers bakery, may need something a bit more effective to secure victory in their upcoming appeal against a ruling stating that they violated anti-discrimination laws by refusing to sell a cake bearing a pro-marriage equality slogan to a gay man.
The appeal hearing, which was originally due to take place in February, was 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 Northern Ireland’s equality legislation and European human rights laws.
On May 19 last year, District Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that Ashers Bakery, run by born-again Christians McArthur family, 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.
Ashers were ordered to pay damages of £500, but appealed the decision.
Ahead of Monday’s scheduled couty appearance, Daniel McArthur, manager of Ashers, told The Belfast Telegraph: “It has been a long and difficult road, but we have been sustained every step of the way by the word of God and by the many thousands of people who have supported us.
“Many share our beliefs about marriage. Many more defend our freedom to hold those beliefs.
“As a family, we are simply hoping and praying for a just outcome so that our ordeal in court next week will be our last.”
Three judges will hear the case at Belfast High Court on Monday, May 9
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