United Kingdom court sides with bakers in Northern Irish gay cake fight

David Blevins interviews the bakers at the heart of the Northern Ireland gay cake controversy

A Belfast bakery run by evangelical Christians was not obliged make a cake emblazoned with the message "Support Gay Marriage", the supreme court has ruled, overturning a £500 damages award imposed on it.

The Supreme Court will rule on whether Ashers "directly discriminated" against Mr Lee on grounds of sexual orientation contrary to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006, and religious and political belief, contrary to the Fair Employment and treatment (NI) Order 1998, by refusing to make a cake decorated with the requested message.

Daniel and Amy McArthur, who own Ashers in Belfast, arrive at the supreme court in London on Wednesday.

"The objection was to the message on the cake, not any personal characteristics of the messenger, or anyone with whom he was associated". "But that is not what happened in this case", Lady Hale said. "The McArthurs could not refuse to provide their products to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or because he supported gay marriage, but that was different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed".

The series of legal cases through the Northern Irish and British court systems began in 2014 when the County Antrim bakers declined to make a cake for gay rights activist Gareth Lee which would have featured a picture of the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie with the message, "Support Gay Marriage", saying the message conflicted with their religious beliefs.

"To me, this was never about conscience or a statement".

"The message on the cake would not just be for the benefit of gay people - but also for their families and friends and anyone who recognises the social benefits which the commitment involved in gay marriage can bring".

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Daniel and Amy McArthur, who said the law risked "extinguishing" their consciences, were in court for the ruling.

Lee then sued the bakery for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and political beliefs, reported the BBC. "This court has held that 'nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe. That made me feel like a second-class citizen", he told reporters after listening to the verdict. "I'm concerned that this has implications for myself and for every single person". The funds are understood to have been provided by charity and lobby group The Christian Institute.

In Northern Ireland, it can be illegal to discriminate against people due to their political opinions. A business providing a public service has a legal duty to do so without discrimination based on race, gender, faith and sexuality.

Daniel McArthur, the general manager of the bakery, said he was relieved by the decision.

The chief judge on Britain's Supreme Court said the ruling should not be read as condoning discrimination.

The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland's largest support organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, expressed its disappointment at the Supreme Court ruling.

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