‘Heartening’ support ahead of Ashers case

Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy at a court appearance last month
Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy at a court appearance last month

Support has “continued to pour in” for the Christian bakers at the centre of the so-called ‘gay cake’ row ahead of an appeal court hearing on Thursday, the Christian Institute has said.

In May last year, Ashers Baking Company general manager Daniel McArthur spoke of his family’s “extreme disappointment” at being found to have breached equality laws.

Although Ashers had refused to bake a cake with a message supporting same-sex marriage, they have always maintained their issue was with the slogan to be added - ‘support gay marriage’ – not with the sexual orientation of the customer, Gareth Lee.

However, the court found they had discriminated against Mr Lee on the grounds of his sexual orientation as well as his political beliefs.

The judge said she accepted that Ashers has “genuine and deeply held” religious views, but said the business was not above the law.

The company was ordered to pay £500 in damages to Mr Lee, who was backed by the Equality Commission. The commission paid almost £39,000 in legal fees to bring the case to court.

Ashers, supported by the Christian Institute, appealed the original court decision and tomorrow’s hearing will deal with legal technicalities ahead of a full appeal being heard on May 9.

Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute said: “It is heartening that support continues to pour in for the McArthur family and the stand they have taken. In excess of 15,000 people have now signed our petition backing them.”

Mr Calvert added: “Some have attempted to portray this case as a minor business dispute. But what is really at stake here are fundamental principles – free thought, free speech and freedom from coercion by the state. The court is going to hear arguments from the Attorney General on why he believes the laws used against the McArthurs may be flawed.

“We will be able to comment on his arguments after the hearing following discussions with our own legal team.”

Ashers was established in 1992 by Colin and Karen McArthur, who are the owners and directors. They have previously refused other cake orders which included pornographic pictures and offensive language which would have conflicted with the teachings of their Christian faith.

No members of the McArthur family are expected to attend court but representatives of the Christian Institute will be present.

Following the court hearing last year, Daniel McArthur said: “We continue to insist that we have done nothing wrong as we have discriminated against no individual, but rather acted according to what the Bible teaches regarding marriage.”