THE gay activist at the centre of a row over a cake has told a court he felt like a "lesser person" when the company refused his custom.
As the landmark case between religious freedom and equality rights got underway in Belfast, Gareth Lee said he was made feel he "wasn't worthy" because of his sexuality when his order for a cake endorsing gay marriage was cancelled by the Christian-run bakery.
Before the case began the company's manager Daniel McArthur said the company's problem "was with the message not the customer" and that it went against their "sincerely held beliefs".
Mr Lee's lawyer, Robin Allen QC, told County Court Judge Isobel Brownlie that the law must not be determined "by those who shout loudest".
He said that large businesses like Ashers "cannot be allowed to break contracts with individuals... in a way which is in breach of equality law".
"If that is allowed the rule of law is worth nothing," he added.
The court was told that Mr Lee was a regular customer at Ashers Royal Avenue store in Belfast.
In May last year he wanted to purchase a cake for a forthcoming event to mark Anti-Homophobia Day.
He asked for a cake bearing the slogan "support gay marriage" along with a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street and the logo of the Queerspace organisation he belongs to.
Mrs McArthur accepted the order and it was paid for in full by Mr Lee.
A few days later, after discussing the matter with her daughter-in-law Amy McArthur and her son Daniel, Mrs McArthur contacted Mr Lee to say Ashers could not fulfil his order because of their Christian beliefs.
The case will continue today with lawyers for Ashers Bakery giving evidence.