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Bakery at centre of same-sex cake row Ashers sees profits top £1.5m

By Claire McNeilly

The Christian-owned bakery at the centre of a landmark legal battle after it refused to bake a cake promoting same-sex marriage has seen its profits soar.

Co Antrim-based Ashers has posted accumulated profits of £1.5m for 2016 - up from £1.3m the previous year.

The family-owned firm lost a Court of Appeal case last year after it was found by the Equality Commission to have breached equality laws by refusing to bake a cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage.

But, according to Ashers Bakery's financial accounts, the controversy has not translated into a dent in profits.

Instead, the company, which now has seven outlets across Northern Ireland and delivers throughout the UK and the Republic, recorded an increase in profit of £170,500 last year.

Run by husband and wife Daniel and Amy McArthur, the bakery chain was issued with legal proceedings after the Equality Commission stepped in and said it had discriminated against gay activist Gareth Lee.

The organisation argued that the business, despite being founded and run by a Christian family, had no right to refuse Mr Lee's request for a cake bearing an image of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie alongside the message 'Support gay marriage'.

Ashers was eventually found guilty of illegal discrimination at Belfast County Court following one of the highest profile cases in Northern Ireland in recent times.

The ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal - despite the bakery owners' argument that the message was incompatible with their Christian beliefs and their sole problem was with the message, not the customer, who had been served before and whose sexual orientation they said they did not know.

The McArthurs are now considering whether to make an appeal to the Supreme Court. The McArthurs and the Christian Institute, which supported them, are liable for costs that are estimated to be in excess of £150,000.

On its website, Ashers now outlines terms and conditions that make no mention of same-sex marriage, but state that people must not send content or images for cakes which contain any "threatening, defamatory, blasphemous or pornographic material".

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