'˜Gay cake' bakers Ashers tour NI before Supreme Court appeal

The family which made headlines after refusing to produce a '˜gay cake' are touring Northern Ireland to meet supporters ahead of a Supreme Court appeal.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 8:00 am
Daniel McArthur of Ashers with his wife Amy outside the High Court in Belfast during their Appeal Court case
Daniel McArthur of Ashers with his wife Amy outside the High Court in Belfast during their Appeal Court case

The owners of the Ashers Baking Company in Belfast are challenging a ruling that their refusal to make a cake with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’ was discriminatory.

The UK’s highest court will sit in Northern Ireland for the first time ever to hear the appeal, on May 1 and 2.

The McArthur family, who own and run Ashers, turned down the cake order because it conflicted with their Christian belief in marriage.

But after a costly legal action, the case brought by the Equality Commission went against them.

Initially, in May 2015, District Judge Brownlie ruled that Ashers broke sexual orientation and political discrimination laws.

At the Court of Appeal hearing in 2016 judges recognised that the family did not refuse the service because the customer was gay, but still ruled that they were guilty of “direct discrimination”.

Ahead of the latest hearing, the Christian Institute has written to supporters inviting them to show their support for the McArthurs at a series of special meetings across Northern Ireland.

Simon Calvert, deputy director for public affairs at the Christian Institute, said: “People from all walks of life support Ashers because they recognise their own freedom could be infringed in the same way.

“They [the McArthurs] should not be forced to use their time, energy and skills to help campaign against their own deeply held beliefs. Nor should anyone else.”

Their legal advisor, Aidan O’Neill QC, advised that if Ashers lost there would be no defence to similar actions being taken against other businesses such as a Muslim printer asked to produce cartoons of Mohammed, or a lesbian t-shirt company asked to print shirts describing gay marriage as “an abomination”.

However, John O’Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project, insisted the business was guilty of discrimination.

“We fully expect the Supreme Court to uphold the previous two judgments in this case,” he said. “The facts are clear and established and we do not expect any newly constructed argument to sway the Supreme Court away from the settled jurisprudence on anti-LGBT discrimination.”

The McArthurs are being supported by gay rights campaigners Peter Tatchell and Jeffrey Dudgeon and also The Guardian newspaper.

Supporters will hear the same presentation and latest news at all five venues this week:

• Today at 8pm in Seagoe Hotel, Craigavon, Co Armagh

• Wednesday at 1pm in Marine Court Hotel, Bangor, Co Down

• Wednesday at 8pm in Templeton Hotel, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim

• Thursday at 8pm in Roe Park Resort, Limavady, Co Londonderry

• Friday at 8pm in Corick House Hotel, Clogher Valley, Co Tyrone