Here is a timeline of significant events in the so-called “gay cake” case.
:: May 9 2014 - Gareth Lee, a member of the Queerspace gay rights advocacy group, places an order at Ashers Baking Company on Belfast’s Royal Avenue for a cake to be decorated with the slogan Support Gay Marriage alongside the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie. The order is accepted by Karen McArthur and payment of £36.50 is made in full.
:: May 11 2014 - Mr Lee is telephoned and informed that the order cannot be completed. Mr Lee is offered a full refund.
:: June 26 2014 - Northern Ireland Equality Commission writes to Ashers requesting that modest compensation be paid.
:: July 7 2014 - The Christian Institute announces it will back Ashers after the company declines to settle the case.
:: July 8 2014 - Alliance Party councillor Andrew Muir expresses public support for the Equality Commission bringing the case. The cake was to be produced for an event which Mr Muir was hosting during his time as mayor of North Down.
:: October 24 2014 - Equality Commission writes again to Ashers and puts the bakery officially “on notice” of impending court action.
:: November 13 2014 - DUP MPs William McCrea, Nigel Dodds and Sammy Wilson launch a petition in support of Ashers Bakery.
:: December 8 2014 - DUP MLA Paul Givan launches a private members’ bill in the Assembly calling for the introduction of a “conscience clause” into equality legislation.
:: March 13 2015 - Democratic Unionist MEP Diane Dodds raises the Ashers case in the European Parliament.
:: March 24 2015 - Hundreds of Christians attend a rally at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, organised by the Christian Institute, to show support for the McArthur family.
:: March 26 2015 - The three-day civil suit is opened at Belfast County Court before District Judge Isobel Brownlie. Mr Lee tells the court he was left feeling like a lesser person when his order was declined.
:: March 27 2015 - In evidence Ms McArthur, an Ashers director, said she had taken the order to avoid a confrontation in the shop but as a born-again Christian “knew in her heart” it could not be completed. Her son, Daniel McArthur, the firm’s general manager, tells the court his family could not compromise their deeply held religious beliefs.
:: March 30 2015 - Judgment is reserved in the case.
:: May 19 2015 - District Judge Isobel Brownlie rules in favour of the Equality Commission. The judge finds Ashers acted unlawfully and directly discriminated against Mr Lee on grounds of his sexual orientation and political beliefs. She said Mr Lee was treated “less favourably”, contrary to the law. The company is ordered to pay agreed costs of £500.
:: May 23 2015 - The Republic of Ireland approves same-sex marriage following a referendum.
:: June 10 2015 - Ashers announce they are to appeal against the judgment on six grounds.
:: June 13 2015 - Up to 2,000 people take part in a rally through Belfast city centre calling for the ban on gay marriage to be lifted.
:: November 2 2015 - For the first time the majority of MLAs at the devolved Stormont Assembly vote in favour of changing the law on same-sex marriage however the proposal falls when the DUP deploys a “petition of concern” blocking mechanism. Gay rights campaigners hail it as a victory.
:: December 3 2015 - Two same-sex couples, Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles, and Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kanem, launch a landmark legal action Belfast’s High Court to judicially review the Assembly’s refusal to legislate on same-sex marriage.
:: February 3, 2016 - Appeal in the case of Gareth Lee v Ashers Baking Company is due to be heard at Belfast’s Royal Courts of Justice.