Thursday 29 June 2017

Gay cake row bakery 'limiting services' to only provide birthday and baby-related celebration cakes

Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company, outside Belfast County Court where he reads a statement to the media following a ruling that the bakery discriminated against a gay man when they refused to make a cake carrying a slogan that promoted same-sex marriage. Photo: Stephen Kilkenny/PA Wire
Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company, outside Belfast County Court where he reads a statement to the media following a ruling that the bakery discriminated against a gay man when they refused to make a cake carrying a slogan that promoted same-sex marriage. Photo: Stephen Kilkenny/PA Wire
Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company, outside Belfast County Court yesterday. Photo: PA
Gareth Lee leaving Belfast County Court yesterday. Photo: PA
Gay rights activist Gareth Lee. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Lesley-Anne McKeown

The Christian-owned bakery found to have discriminated against a gay man is limiting its services.

Ashers Baking Company will only provide birthday and baby-related celebration cakes, according to the firm's general manager.

Gareth Lee leaving Belfast County Court yesterday. Photo: PA
Gareth Lee leaving Belfast County Court yesterday. Photo: PA
Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company
Undated handout photo issued by the Christian Institute of Ashers Baking Company owner Colin McArthur, 48, with his wife Karen, 45, and their son Daniel, 25, the General Manager of Ashers, with his wife Amy, 26, and their children Robyn, aged two, and six-month-old Elia, who were taken to court for refusing to make a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage slogan have said faith is sustaining them ahead of the judgment. PA Wire

Daniel McArthur said: "Due to the recent legal developments we have decided to limit our celebration cake range to certain birthday and baby-related celebration cakes while we consider our policy and talk with our lawyers."

Read more here: 'Gay cake row has given No campaign a massive boost' 

The decision comes after a judge at Belfast County Court ruled that Ashers had acted unlawfully by declining an order from gay rights activist Gareth Lee last year.

Mr Lee, a member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space, wanted a cake featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie with the slogan Support Gay Marriage.

Read more here: 'Gay cake' row was much more than a storm in a tea cup

It had been ordered for a private function in Bangor, Co Down, to mark International Anti Homophobia Day last May.

Mr Lee, who paid in full when placing the order at Ashers' Belfast branch, said he was left feeling like a lesser person when he was told his request could not be fulfilled.

The publicly funded Northern Ireland Equality Commission - which has a statutory duty to monitor the region's anti-discrimination laws - brought the legal action on his behalf.

Read more here: Equality body that supported gay man in same-sex cake row 'vindicated' 

Ashers, which is owned by the McArthur family, employs almost 80 people across six branches and delivers throughout the UK and Ireland.

The family said they opposed same sex marriage on religious grounds and could not produce the cake with a message that was contrary to their deeply held Christian beliefs.

In her judgement, delivered on Tuesday, District Judge Isobel Brownlie found the bakers had discriminated against Mr Lee on grounds of his sexual orientation and his political beliefs.

Read more here: Ashers Bakery at centre of 'gay cake' row found guilty of discrimination 

Ashers was ordered to pay agreed damages of £500.

Mr McArthur said the firm's website was being re-worked to reflect the changes.

He added: "The department represents a small part of the business and no jobs will be impacted."

Read more here: Bakery loses gay cake battle over 'Bert and Ernie' slogan 

The high profile case has divided public opinion in Belfast and beyond.

Throughout the case, the McArthurs, who are considering an appeal, were supported by the Christian Institute which paid their defence costs.

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