Judge says Ashers ‘gay cake’ case may be heard by Supreme Court

The Christian owners of Ashers Bakery, 
Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy, pictured at Belfast High Court (archive image).
The Christian owners of Ashers Bakery, Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy, pictured at Belfast High Court (archive image).

Christian bakers found to have unlawfully refused to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan may have a new route of appeal to the UK’s highest court.

Lawyers for the McArthur family had believed they were left with no further challenge to verdicts reached in the landmark civil action.

But senior judges in Belfast have now raised the possibility that a section of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 could provide them with a way of getting to the Supreme Court.

Adjourning the case at the Court of Appeal today, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan told counsel for the McArthurs: “You need to make a decision whether you wish to pursue it.”

Last month the Court of Appeal upheld a finding that the family, who run Ashers’ Baking Company, directly discriminated against customer Gareth Lee due to his sexuality.

Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin QC was expected to seek formal approval at yesterday’s hearing of his intention to refer the verdict to the Supreme Court.

However, his legal move has also been put on hold following the emergence of another potential route.

David Scoffield QC, for the McArthurs, told the court: “We are happy to look at that and confirm our submissions in writing.”

Mr Lee sued after his order was declined at Ashers’ Belfast city centre shop in May 2014.

The gay rights activist had requested a cake depicting Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie below the motto ‘Support Gay Marriage’ for an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia.

Bosses at the bakery refunded his money for the order because the message went against their Christian faith.

But Mr Lee claimed he was left feeling like a lesser person.

Last year, Belfast County Court held that the bakery had unlawfully discriminated against him on grounds of sexual orientation and religious belief or political opinion.