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Court report: Ashers Bakery lose pro-gay marriage cake slogan appeal

By Alan Erwin

Published 24/10/2016

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

A Christian bakery has lost its appeal against being found to have unlawfully refused to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.

In a landmark verdict, senior judges in Belfast ruled that the McArthur family did directly discriminate against customer Gareth Lee due to his sexuality.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "What they may not do is provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation.

Ashers' Baking Company, run by the McArthurs, declined an order placed by Mr Lee at its Belfast city centre shop in May 2014.

The gay rights activist had requested a cake depicting Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie below the motto 'Support Gay Marriage' for an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia.

Bosses at the bakery refunded his money for the order because the message went against their Christian faith.

The family insist their problem was with the cake and not the customer.

But Mr Lee sued, claiming he was left feeling like a lesser person.

Last year Belfast County Court held that the bakery had unlawfully discriminated against him on grounds of sexual orientation and religious belief or political opinion.

The firm was also ordered to pay £500 compensation to Mr Lee, whose legal action was backed by the Equality Commission.

But during a four-day hearing at the Court of Appeal lawyers for the McArthurs argued it would have been sinful for them to complete the order.

Counsel for the family claimed it was wrong to force them to choose between operating a business or adhering to their faith.

Rejecting allegations that the bakery subjected Mr Lee to direct discrimination, he insisted the refusal was solely due to conscience and nothing to do with the customer or his political opinion.

Anyone else asking for the same cake would have received the same response due to the family's religious beliefs, the court heard.

Northern Ireland's top law officer, Attorney General John Larkin QC, backed the McArthurs' case by contending that forcing them to complete the order could amount to cruelty.

Attorney General John Larkin QC submitted that it was wrong to force them to express a political view in conflict with their faith, adding that they should have constitutional protection.

Counsel representing the Equality Commission argued that the family's entitlement to express religious beliefs should not "trump" Mr Lee's rights.

He told the court that the bakery's objection to using the word gay meant there was direct discrimination.

Backing that position, Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justices Weatherup and Weir, pointed out that the McArthurs had not been asked to support gay marriage.

"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 added.

Mr Lee and the McArthur family were present in a packed courtroom for the ruling.

The Lord Chief Justice said the reason the order was cancelled was that the appellants would not provide a cake with a message endorsing a right to marry for those of a particular sexual orientation.

"This was a case of association with the gay and bisexual community an the protected personal characteristic was the sexual orientation of that community," he added.

"Accordingly this was direct discrimination."

The legislation does not treat the company less favourably, the court heard.

Sir Declan held: "The answer is for the supplier of services to cease distinguishing, on prohibited grounds, between those who may or may not receive the service.

"Thus the supplier may provide the particular service to all or none, but not to a selection of customers based on prohibited grounds."

The Equality Commission is now to seek its legal costs in the case.

Outside court Daniel McArthur claimed equality law needs to change if it means facing punishment for politely refusing the support the views of others.

"This ruling undermines democratic freedom, religious freedom and free speech," he said.

Mr McArthur insisted his bakery has served Mr Lee before and would be happy to do so again in future.

But re-emphasising the difficulty was with the slogan, he said requests to decorate a cake with pornographic images, swear words or even spiteful messages about gay people would also be refused.

Mr McArthur added: "We will have to take advice from out lawyers about whether there's a way to appeal this ruling."

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