More than 8,000 people have signed a petition in support of Ashers Baking Company ahead of their court appeal in the ‘gay cake’ row case.
The petition was launched in addition to a series of public meetings which drew a total of 1,400 supporters to events in Ballymena, Belfast, Clogher Valley and Craigavon.
In May last year a judge ordered the business – which is owned by the McArthur family and managed by Daniel McArthur – to pay £500 damages for refusing to fulfil an order for a cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage.
The McArthurs declined Gareth Lee’s order because it conflicted with their Christian beliefs that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
However, the court found Ashers had breached political and sexual orientation discrimination regulations.
The McArthur family has been supported by the Christian Institute in its legal battle with the NI Equality Commission, and an appeal against the court ruling is listed for hearing in Belfast on Wednesday (February 3) and Thursday.
At the last meeting public meeting in Craigavon Civic Centre on Monday night Simon Calvert, the Institute’s deputy director, told the 500-strong gathering: “Something has gone wrong, when good people like the McArthurs are being hauled before the courts just for holding to that simple view. People must be free to manifest genuine, reasonable moral and religious convictions without fear of unfair discrimination and mistreatment.”
The petition at www.christian.org.uk/supportashers states: “I support Ashers Baking Co and the McArthur family in their stand for freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.”