A printing company in the Republic has said it stands over a refusal to make invitations for a gay wedding.
In a case that bears similarities to the Ashers cake row in Northern Ireland, Beulah Print in Drogheda in the Irish Republic defended its decision not to take the order from a local hairdresser on religious grounds despite him being a client of theirs for the past four years.
Jonathon Brennan, who owns the Avenue Hair and Beauty salon in the town, said he was refused by the printers for the first time on Wednesday afternoon when it came to his wedding.
“I did not know what to say. I was dumbfounded,” the stylist said.
Mr Brennan is due to wed his partner of eight years, John Kierans, in Ireland in August.
Mike O’Leary, one of the co-owners of Beulah Print, defended the decision not to print the invites, citing his Christian beliefs, and said that it is not the first time the company has refused to take orders from same-sex couples.
“We have turned down other classes of work that we’d not be happy to print - mainly things that are borderline pornographic,” he said.
The dispute is just weeks away from when Irish voters will have their say on whether to extend marriage rights to gay couples in a referendum.
The case echoes a dispute in Northern Ireland where Ashers Bakers in Belfast, also a Christian owned company, refused to make a cake that carried a pro-gay marriage slogan.
Mr Brennan added: “This is all a whirlwind. I’m horrified. I’m so disappointed that this has taken place in modern Ireland, especially now coming up to the vote on equality.
“We’ve been together eight years and we’ve never come across an instance like this. We are hurt and we are very angry.”
In a statement, the printers added: “We, at Beulah Print, are Bible-believing Christians who are committed to standing by our conscience and God’s Word.
“We have been in business for 12 years during which time we have held to our convictions and have at times declined a variety of work which we felt was clearly contrary to our beliefs.
“We have never hidden our faith from our customers and represent the gospel at every opportunity.
“We are not against homosexuals, however, we do not support same sex marriage, which printing wedding invitations would do.”
Mr O’Leary also included a biblical reference in defending their position: “We believe the love of God is extended to all people and that He has called us all to walk in the light of His word, for He is the way, the truth and the life.”
The newly created Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) declined to comment on the case, but it states that the Equal Status Act bans discrimination in the supply of goods and services across nine grounds including sexual orientation.
Mr Brennan said the couple would be seeking legal advice before deciding whether to lodge a complaint of discrimination against the printers.
A bid by Democratic Unionists to introduce a so-called conscience clause into equality laws in Northern Ireland was launched in the wake of legal action being taken against Ashers.
Tiernan Brady, of the Dublin-based Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen), said: “Without getting into the specifics of this case, the law of the land in Ireland is very clear - it’s against the law to deny goods or services.
“That’s a good law and it’s there for a reason, as it protects people.”
Mr Brady said it was his experience that the denial of goods or services to gay people was a rare occurrence in Ireland with the vast majority of the public in favour of laws to protect the community.
“We know how to obey good laws in Ireland,” he said.
“When it comes to good services being denied because they are gay or lesbian, it’s something we rarely hear about now, and that’s a good thing.”