'Gay cake row has given No campaign a massive boost'
Published 22/05/2015 | 02:30
Campaigners calling for a No vote have said a ruling against a Belfast bakery for refusing to make a cake with pro-gay marriage slogans has given them a "massive boost".
Ashers Bakery last week lost a landmark discrimination suit at the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland for refusing to bake the cake.
However, those calling for a No vote said the decision has led to a massive surge in support for their campaign.
"This decision represents a serious blow for free speech," said John Murray, who was speaking on behalf of a group of 100 evangelical church leaders.
"Since the verdict came in we have had a number of people coming forward who were on the fence to say they are now voting No.
"They understand that it could end anywhere. It is not just about equality anymore, it is about freedom of speech.
"If there is a Yes vote, will a Muslim printer in Ireland now be obliged to print cartoons of Mohammed?
"Will a lesbian T-shirt printer now be forced to print T-shirts promoting traditional marriage?
"This suit has drummed up a level of support that we thought that we wouldn't have had," he said.
Meanwhile, Ireland's first female Bishop has also extended her calls for a No vote.
In a letter to her clergy, Pat Storey, of the Meath and Kildare Church of Ireland Diocese, stated her reasons for voting No.
She wrote: "I believe that civil partnerships give gay people clear civil rights and recognition as people committed to one another, and I fully endorse this.
"However, I do not think that this requires the redefinition of marriage to uphold it, and I do not believe that marriage should be redefined.
"You cannot redefine marriage without including information and reference to children, family life and the good of society."
Mothers and Fathers Matter have also issued a last-ditch plea for people to vote against the marriage equality referendum.
Speaking for the group, Dr Tom Finegan, has encouraged everyone to "get out and vote" after what he called "a long and hard-fought campaign."
"Interfering with the family is a very dangerous thing to do," he said. "The family is older than any country, faith or ideology. It predates history itself.
"This referendum proposes to radically change the idea of what a family in our Constitution is, and the fact is that none of us can foresee the consequences."
He said they believed where possible a child deserved a mother and a father.
"We believe that this referendum will give constitutional sanction to the deliberate deprivation of a child of a mother or a father," he said.