Saturday 20 December 2014

Legal threat to baker who turned down order for cake supporting gay marriage

Adrian Rutherford

Published 09/07/2014 | 02:30

Northern Ireland Alliance Party councillor Andrew Muir cuts a specially baked Bert and Ernie cake to support gay marriage.
Northern Ireland Alliance Party councillor Andrew Muir cuts a specially baked Bert and Ernie cake to support gay marriage.
Bert and Ernie on the cake.

A BAKING company is facing legal action after it refused a customer's request to make a cake with a slogan which supported gay marriage.

The cake, depicting iconic 'Sesame Street' couple Bert and Ernie, was ordered by gay activist Gareth Lee and intended for an ex-mayor's anti-homophobia event.

But Ashers Bakery, which is run by devout Christians, refused to handle the order.

The firm's general manager Daniel McArthur said his company would not be baking the cake under any circumstances, insisting Christians should be allowed to apply their beliefs to the running of their businesses.

The company in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, could face legal action from the North's Equality Commission.

The clash began in May when Mr Lee, from the QueerSpace pressure group, ordered a cake with the words 'support gay marriage' and featuring Bert and Ernie from 'Sesame Street'.

The order was accepted by staff at the Belfast branch but when the owners, Colin and Karen McArthur and their son Daniel, learned of the order they rejected it.

Daniel McArthur (24) said Mr Lee got a full refund. Six weeks later the firm was "very surprised" to receive a letter from the Equality Commission, alleging it had discriminated against Mr Lee on the grounds of his sexual orientation.

"I feel if we don't take a stand on this case, then how can we stand against it further down the line?" Mr McArthur said.

"I would like the outcome of this to be that any Christians running a business could be allowed to follow their Christian beliefs and principles in the day-to-day running of their business and that they are allowed to make decisions based on that."

He pointed out that marriage in Northern Ireland "is defined as the union between one man and one woman".

However, Alliance councillor Andrew Muir – who hosted the civic event for which the cake was ordered – said he fully supported the action taken against the bakery.

The openly gay councillor said: "Businesses should not be able to pick and choose who they serve."

Mr Lee declined to comment when contacted yesterday.

Irish Independent

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