Ashers Baking Company in Northern Ireland has been found guilty of discrimination after refusing an order for a cake with the slogan “support gay marriage”
The Northern Ireland Equality Commission brought the case against Ashers on behalf of Queer Space activist Gareth Lee who had requested a cake featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia.
"The defendants have unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff on grounds of sexual discrimination. This is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification."
Ashers was ordered to pay agreed damages of £500 ($780) plus court costs. General manager Daniel McArthur said:
"We've said from the start that our issue was with the message on the cake, not the customer and we didn't know what the sexual orientation of Mr Lee was, and it wasn't relevant either.
“We've always been happy to serve any customers that come into our shops. The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign no matter how much they disagree with it. Or as the Equality Commission has suggested, they should perhaps just close down, and that can't be right.
"But we won't be closing down, we certainly don't think we've done anything wrong and we will be taking legal advice to consider our options for appeal.”
However, Brownlie said that the McArthur family “must have known or had the perception that the plaintiff was gay…supported gay marriage or associated with others who supported gay marriage."
A statement issued on behalf of 100 evangelical church leaders said:
"It will sadden all those who value freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. This decision represents a serious blow for free speech and plunges the law into confusion. It opens up a Pandora's box of legal cases".
Last month, Northern Ireland health minister and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Assembly member Jim Wells resigned after saying that children of gay parents are "more likely" to be abused or neglected
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— Catholic Herald (@CatholicHerald) May 20, 2015