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Bakers in pro-gay marriage cake row seek ruling on Supreme Court appeal

Published 10/11/2016

Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers which lost an appeal against the ruling that they had discriminated against gay man Gareth Lee.
Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers which lost an appeal against the ruling that they had discriminated against gay man Gareth Lee.

Christian bakers found to have breached equality laws by refusing to make a pro-gay marriage cake have asked judges to rule on whether they can appeal to the UK's highest court.

The owners of Ashers bakery are seeking clarity on their legal position in regard to a potential Supreme Court challenge. The McArthur family are also considering taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights if the route to the doors of the Supreme Court is not open.

Last month, Court of Appeal judges in Belfast upheld an original judgment which ruled that Ashers had discriminated against a gay activist for declining his order for a cake bearing the slogan "Support Gay Marriage".

The McArthur family's legal team believe an appeal to the Supreme Court may not be possible under legislation relating to appeals in civil cases.

The lawyers have written to the Appeal Court judges in Belfast requesting that they issue a ruling making clear the position.

The letter stated: "In view of the complexity of these issues... and the wider public importance which this case clearly has, and in order to make clear that the appellants (Ashers) have exhausted their domestic remedies... we respectfully invite the Court of Appeal to consider giving a short ruling on the question of whether appeal to the United Kingdom Supreme Court is available in this case".

Simon Calvert, from The Christian Institute, which has backed the McArthur family throughout the legal proceedings, said: "Under the complex rules regarding appeals in civil cases, such as the Ashers case, the Court of Appeal decision seems to be final, according to the terms of the Judicature Act 1978."

If the Supreme Court is not an option, the Ashers could still mount a challenge in the European courts.

The Christian Institute said Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin could also potentially refer "devolution issues" linked to the cake case to the Supreme Court.

Northern Ireland-based Ashers, a name with Biblical connotations, has six branches, employs more than 80 people and delivers across the UK and Ireland.

Pacemaker Press 26/3/2015
Daniel McArthur (General manager at Ashers Bakery) arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast with his wife Amy on thursday, Ashers face a discrimination case supported by the Equality Commission, after a dispute began when the Christian-run bakery refused a request to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 26/3/2015 Daniel McArthur (General manager at Ashers Bakery) arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast with his wife Amy on thursday, Ashers face a discrimination case supported by the Equality Commission, after a dispute began when the Christian-run bakery refused a request to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 24th October Asher's Bakery loose appeal on the judgement over them not wanting to bake a 'gay cake'. Two years ago, the family-run firm refused to make a cake for gay rights activist Gareth Lee with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" leading to a judge ruling the Christian owners of Ashers had discriminated against him. Daniel McArthur of Ashers with his wife Amy and parents pictured leaving the High Court in Belfast after the judgement was given. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company speak to the media at Belfast High Court, as judgment is due to be delivered on an appeal brought by the Christian bakers who were found to have discriminated against gay man Gareth Lee. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 24th October Asher's Bakery loose appeal on the judgement over them not wanting to bake a 'gay cake'. Two years ago, the family-run firm refused to make a cake for gay rights activist Gareth Lee with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" leading to a judge ruling the Christian owners of Ashers had discriminated against him. Gareth Lee(left) and Dr. Michael Wardlow, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission pictured leaving the High Court in Belfast after the judgement was given. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 24th October Asher's Bakery loose appeal on the judgement over them not wanting to bake a 'gay cake'. Two years ago, the family-run firm refused to make a cake for gay rights activist Gareth Lee with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" leading to a judge ruling the Christian owners of Ashers had discriminated against him. Gareth Lee(left) and Dr. Michael Wardlow, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission pictured leaving the High Court in Belfast after the judgement was given. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 24th October Asher's Bakery loose appeal on the judgement over them not wanting to bake a 'gay cake'. Two years ago, the family-run firm refused to make a cake for gay rights activist Gareth Lee with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" leading to a judge ruling the Christian owners of Ashers had discriminated against him. Daniel McArthur of Ashers and his wife Amy pictured leaving the High Court in Belfast after the judgement was given. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 24th October Asher's Bakery loose appeal on the judgement over them not wanting to bake a 'gay cake'. Two years ago, the family-run firm refused to make a cake for gay rights activist Gareth Lee with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" leading to a judge ruling the Christian owners of Ashers had discriminated against him. Gareth Lee pictured leaving the High Court in Belfast after the judgement was given. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 24th October Asher's Bakery loose appeal on the judgement over them not wanting to bake a 'gay cake'. Two years ago, the family-run firm refused to make a cake for gay rights activist Gareth Lee with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" leading to a judge ruling the Christian owners of Ashers had discriminated against him. Daniel McArthur of Ashers pictured leaving the High Court in Belfast after the judgement was given. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
Judgement due on 'gay cake' appeal for Ashers Bakery. Two years ago, the family-run firm refused to make a cake for gay rights activist Gareth Lee with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" leading to a judge ruling the Christian owners of Ashers had discriminated against him. Daniel McArthur of Ashers and his wife Amy arrive at the High Court in Belfast to hear the appeal. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
Judgement due on 'gay cake' appeal for Ashers Bakery. Two years ago, the family-run firm refused to make a cake for gay rights activist Gareth Lee with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" leading to a judge ruling the Christian owners of Ashers had discriminated against him. Gareth Lee(left) and Dr. Michael Wardlow, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission arrives at the High Court in Belfast to hear the appeal. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye
Daniel McArthur (L), managing director of Ashers Bakery and his wife Amy McArthur (R) hold a press conference as they outside Belfast high court alongside family members for the so called 'Gay Cake' case verdict on October 24, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy arrive at court for the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Daniel McArthur (director of Ashers Bakery) and with wife Amy at Laganside court in Belfast on Tuesday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Gay rights activist Gareth Lee outside Laganside Court. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Gay rights activist Gareth Lee outside Laganside Court. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Gay rights activist Gareth Lee outside Laganside Court. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Daniel McArthur (director of Ashers Bakery) and with wife Amy at Laganside court in Belfast on Tuesday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Gay rights activist Gareth Lee gets a hug from a friend outside Laganside Court. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Gay rights activist Gareth Lee gets a hug from a friend outside Laganside Court. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Daniel McArthur (director of Ashers Bakery) and with wife Amy at Laganside court in Belfast on Tuesday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Daniel McArthur (director of Ashers Bakery) and with wife Amy at Laganside court in Belfast on Tuesday Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Daniel McArthur (director of Ashers Bakery) at Laganside court in Belfast on Tuesday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Daniel McArthur (director of Ashers Bakery) and with wife Amy at Laganside court in Belfast on Tuesday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Daniel McArthur (director of Ashers Bakery) and with wife Amy at Laganside court in Belfast on Tuesday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 19/5/2015 Daniel McArthur (director of Ashers Bakery) and with wife Amy at Laganside court in Belfast on Tuesday Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Dr Michael Wardlow(left() from the Equality Commission and Gareth Lee(centre) pictured outside the court after the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
The DUP's Paul Givan(second from right) and Edwin Poots(second from left) pictured outside the court after the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy arrive at court for the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy arrive at court for the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy arrive at court for the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy arrive at court for the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy pictured outside the court after the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy pictured outside the court after the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Gareth Lee who had tried to order the cake. Gareth Lee(centre) pictured outside the court after the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Gareth Lee who had tried to order the cake. Gareth Lee(right) pictured outside the court after the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy pictured outside the court after the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Gareth Lee who had trued to order the cake. Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy pictured outside the court after the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Gareth Lee(centre) pictured outside the court after the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Gareth Lee receives a hug outside the court after the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Bakery owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy pictured outside the court after the verdict. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Ashers found guilty of discrimination in cake case. A judge has found a Christian bakery which refused to make a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage slogan guilty of discrimination. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 19th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Daniel McArthur (General manager at Ashers Bakery) arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast with his familly Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Daniel and Amy McArthur arrive at Laganside Court yesterday morning
Ashers' Daniel McArthur with his wife Amy and his parents Colin and Karen behind leave Laganside Court after the case finished
Daniel McArthur (General manager at Ashers Bakery) arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast with his family. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Daniel McArthur, general manager of Asher's Bakery gives a statement to the media before entering court
Ashers Baking Co on Belfast’s Royal Avenue, where Gareth Lee placed the order for the cake at the centre of the court action
Ashers bakery boss Daniel McArthur at Belfast Court. Pic Mark Simpson BBC
More than 2,000 people pack the Waterfront Hall to show support for Ashers bakery
Gareth Lee, whose lawyer put his side of the case to the court yesterday
Daniel and Amy McArthur arriving at Belfast County Court to fight a challenge by Northern Ireland's Equality Commission following their refusal to make a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage slogan. David Young/PA Wire
The cake at the centre of the Ashers row
Daniel McArthur (General manager at Ashers Bakery) arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast with his wife Amy on thursday. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Daniel McArthur (General manager at Ashers Bakery) arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Christian Institute support rally for Ashers bakery held at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. Photograph: Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
Christian Institute support rally for Ashers bakery held at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. Photograph: Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
Daniel McArthur (General manager at Ashers Bakery) arrives at Laganside Court in Belfast. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Daniel and Amy McArthur with their baby daughter Elia
Christian Institute support rally for Ashers bakery held at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. In attendance is the DUP's Sammy Wilson. Photograph:Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
The Ashers Baking Co outlet in Belfast’s Royal Avenue
Mayor Andrew Muir cutting a Sesame Street Bert and Ernie 'Support Gay Marriage' cake

Gareth Lee, a member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space, had wanted a cake featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia.

He placed the order in person at Ashers' Belfast city centre branch in May 2014. It was accepted and he paid in full but, two days later, the company called to say it could not proceed with the cake due to the message requested.

In the original court case, District Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that religious beliefs could not dictate the law and ordered the firm to pay damages of £500.

Mounting an appeal, Ashers contended that it never had an issue with Mr Lee's sexuality, rather the message he was seeking to put on the cake.

The business said the slogan was inconsistent with their deeply held religious beliefs.

The appeal was heard before three senior judges at Belfast's Court of Appeal in May, with the reserved judgment delivered in October.

In delivering their ruling, Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, said Ashers had directly discriminated.

He rejected the argument that the bakery would be endorsing the slogan by baking the cake.

"The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either," he said.

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