Ashers ‘gay cake’ case may be headed for European Court of Human Rights

Gareth Lee outside the Supreme Court in London after five justices unanimously ruled against him in October last year
Gareth Lee outside the Supreme Court in London after five justices unanimously ruled against him in October last year
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The man at the centre of the so-called ‘gay cake’ discrimination case has launched a bid to continue his legal battle at the European Court of Human Rights .

Last October, the UK Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Christian owners of Belfast-based Ashers bakery were not obliged to make a cake emblazoned with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage.

The legal action was originally brought by gay rights activist Gareth Lee, who claimed he had been discriminated against when the bakery refused to make him a cake iced with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

Now, Mr Lee will attempt to challenge that ruling at the highest human rights court in Europe, citing the Supreme Court “failed to give appropriate weight” to his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.

Human rights solicitors Phoenix Law said the latest legal battle “does not directly implicate the owners of Ashers or challenge their right to privately hold religious/political views”.

Instead, the legal firm said, the case will be against the United Kingdom, a member state to the European Court.

The Christian Institute – which supported Ashers in its defence – said Mr Lee would have “considerable difficulty overturning such a strong, unanimous and clear ruling” from the Supreme Court.

Mr Lee’s application to the ECHR was lodged in April, within the six-month time limit for appeals, a spokesperson for Phoenix Law confirmed.

They added they have only recently had an acknowledgement from the ECHR that the application has been received.

The Belfast-based firm said it was challenging “the concept that a business can have religious beliefs”.

Human rights solicitor Ciaran Moynagh, acting for Mr Lee, claimed the Supreme Court ruling had “blurred the line” and created “legal uncertainty” in Northern Ireland.

He added: “We’re concerned the ruling in this case allows any company, its shareholders or owners to hold religious or political views and those views trump the rights of its customers.

“The European Court of Human Rights is the appropriate place to clarify this issue.”

Simon Calvert, a deputy director of the Christian Institute told the News Letter: “The judgment in favour of Ashers was welcomed by lawyers and commentators from across the spectrum because it protects people of all views.

“I’m surprised that anyone would want to overturn a ruling that protects gay business owners from being forced to promote views they don’t share, just as much as it protects Christian business owners.”