Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 29 May 2016

Gay marriage cake row: Christian bakery Ashers 'told to pay compensation or face legal action'

Published 06/11/2014

Councillor Andrew Muir cutting the cake that was produced by another bakery after Asher’s Baking Company refused
Councillor Andrew Muir cutting the cake that was produced by another bakery after Asher’s Baking Company refused

A Christian bakery owner who refused to make a cake with a slogan in support of gay marriage says he has been threatened with legal action unless he pays compensation.

Family-run Ashers Baking Company - which is based in Newtownabbey - was told it discriminated against a gay rights activist by declining to include a slogan that said 'support gay marriage'.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland took on the case on behalf of the customer.

Now, general manager of the bakery - Daniel McArthur - said he had now received a letter from the commission claiming his stance breached legislation.

He said the letter told the company if it did not offer compensation within seven days it would face litigation.

"We feel that the Equality Commission are pursuing us because of our beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman," he said.

"It feels like a David and Goliath battle because on one hand we have the Equality Commission who are a public body, they're funded by taxpayers' money, they have massive resources at their disposal whereas we are a small family business and we have limited resources at our disposal."

The 'Bert and Ernie' cake was for an ex-mayor's anti-homophobia event.

At the time, Alliance councillor Andrew Muir blasted the company's decision to refuse to make the cake in support of gay marriage.

Northern Ireland's first gay mayor said "businesses should not be able to pick and choose who they serve".

Ashers Baking Company has been running since 1992 and employs 62 people.

Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute, which is supporting the McArthur family, said: "It is simply baffling for a body supposedly working for equality to be threatening a Christian family with legal action, all because of a cake.

"The Equality Commission has taken four months to dream up new grounds on which to pursue the McArthur family, claiming that they've breached political discrimination laws.

The image the customer wanted on the cake
The image the customer wanted on the cake

"If supporting same-sex marriage is a protected political opinion, so is supporting traditional marriage. Yet the Commission clearly favours one view over another and is prepared to litigate to prove it."

A spokesman for the Equality Commission confirmed a letter had been sent to the bakery.

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