Ashers Bakery, which recently won a court case taken against them after they refused to produce a “gay cake” for a customer, is set to close down its Belfast City Centre branch due to lack of business.
The UK’s highest court cleared the bakery’s owners of discrimination after they refused to produce the so-called “gay cake” which would have been seen to promote same-sex marriage.
The closure is said to be due to the recent fire at the near-by Primark store which caused road closures and diversions in the area. Ashers Bakery is just a few yards from the burnt out building.
Daniel McArthur, the general manager, said: “It simply comes down to the figures. We decided not to renew the lease. Belfast city centre isn’t busy enough — our other shops are much busier. It’s been planned for some time and I am pleased to say there will be no job losses.”
Gay rights activist and member of the LGBT+ advocacy group QueerSpace Gareth Lee originally brought the bakery to court because of their refusal to bake the cake, which would have had “Support Gay Marriage” written in icing.
Lee originally won his case in the county court and then at the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal, but Asher’s bakery then decided to challenge those rulings in the Supreme Court back in May. Earlier this month, they won their case and were cleared of discrimination as judges unanimously decided that the bakery did not discriminate as they objected the message and not the messenger.
While some praised the verdict as a win for freedom of speech, John O’Doherty, the Director of Northern Ireland’s Rainbow Project criticised the decision:
“We are disappointed by this judgement. Ashers agreed to make the cake. They entered into a contractual agreement to make this cake and then changed their mind. While sympathetic as some may be to the position in which the company finds itself; this does not change the facts of the case.
“We believe this is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification.”
The controversy began in 2014 when Lee ordered a cake for a private event marking International Day Against Homophobia and Ashers Bakery refused to produce the cake due to their religious beliefs.
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