Belfast Telegraph

Equality Commission at centre of gay marriage cake storm

By Adrian Rutherford

The Equality Commission has already caused controversy over its pursuit of a Co Antrim company which refused to bake a cake supporting gay marriage.

Ashers Baking Company was told it had discriminated against a gay rights activist by rejecting a slogan that said 'support gay marriage'. The commission has issued legal proceedings against the family-run bakery.

First Minister Peter Robinson has led the criticism of the taxpayer-funded body, describing its pursuit of Ashers Bakery as "bonkers". Mr Robinson also said the commission needed to "wind their necks in" at a time when public funds were under pressure. His comments were particularly significant because his department, the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, is ultimately responsible for the quango and awards it £6m in funding a year.

The Equality Commission was established in 1998 and became operational the following year.

It provides protection against discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, race, religion and political opinion, sex and sexual orientation.

Its chief executive is Evelyn Collins. According to its 2013/14 annual report, she receives a salary of £75,000 to £80,000. The Equality Commission has secured notable successes in cases of clear discrimination.

Earlier this year it helped secure compensation totalling £23,000 to a young woman who was sacked from a Fermanagh bakery after she became pregnant.

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