A majority of the British public believe that the Equality Commission’s legal threat to an Ulster bakery which refused to make a pro-gay marriage cake should be dropped, according to a poll.
The ComRes poll found that 60 per cent of the public agreed that the action against Ashers Baking Company in Newtownabbey was “disproportionately heavy-handed”, with just 14 per cent disagreeing with that statement.
A quarter of the 2,000 people surveyed said that they did not know whether or not it was disproportionate action.
However, the poll, which was conducted last week, shows a radical difference of opinion across different ages.
Among those who are over 65, eight in ten people opposed the action against the bakery.
But just over four in ten people aged under 44 believed that the case against the bakery was heavy-handed.
The poll also found that a majority — 54 per cent — said that the case showed David Cameron was wrong when he reassured Parliament that introducing gay marriage would not cause discrimination against those who believe it is wrong.
The poll was commissioned by the Christian Institute, which is raising funds to support the bakery’s legal defence.
It has until this week to respond to the Equality Commission, which last month told the bakery that if it did not put forward “proposals to remedy your unlawful discrimination” within seven days, it would face court action.
The commission has now agreed to a request from Ashers which extends that deadline until this week
The gay rights activist who ordered the cake has made clear that he did not target Ashers Bakery as a Christian business but simply walked into its Belfast city centre outlet unaware of the company owners’ beliefs.
However, the ComRes poll found that on the wider issue of gay activists ‘targeting’ Christian businesses, a large section of the public believe that such actions are taking place.
When the statement ‘Christian-run businesses appear to be being singled out unfairly by gay activists in order to make an example of them’ was put to those polled, 45 per cent agreed, with 22 per cent disagreeing.
Asher’s lawyers have estimated that the case could cost taxpayers £30,000 if the Equality Commission brings the company to a county court.
However, if that was to happen and any verdict was to be appealed to higher courts, the costs would soar.