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The refusal that snowballed

By Deborah McAleese

It has been dubbed the David and Goliath fight, with the publicly funded Equality Commission taking on a Christian bakery.

Ashers bakery, a business run by devout Christians, is being pursued in court by the Equality Commission after refusing to include a slogan 'Support gay marriage' on a cake ordered by a gay activist.

Founded in 1992, the bakery is run by the McArthur family.

The directors operate six shops in Northern Ireland and employ 62 people.

In July last year a gay-themed cake depicting the Sesame Street couple Bert and Ernie was ordered for an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

The customer placed the order in Ashers' Belfast branch and it was then passed to its head office.

It was decided by the directors that the order was at odds with their beliefs and the order was refused. The firm offered the customer a full refund, which was collected.

A few weeks later the Equality Commission contacted Ashers and accused the firm of having discriminated against the customer on the grounds of his sexual orientation.

The Christian Institute, which is backing the firm's case, has issued a plea for donations to support Ashers ahead of the court action. The case is listed to be heard at the end of the month.

Following the gay cake row, DUP MLA Paul Givan attempted to introduce a conscience clause Bill to allow those with strongly-held religious beliefs to legally refuse to provide goods and services which contravened those beliefs.

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