Ashers bakery couple: Guilty by law, but we're innocent in God's eyes
The owners of the family-run bakery found guilty of discriminating against a gay customer have broken their silence to say that their faith has not been shaken and they believe the verdict is God's purpose.
Ashers owners Colin and Karen McArthur have spoken for the first time about the landmark judgment against their company.
The family are now considering their options for an appeal.
The bakery broke the law when it discriminated against a gay customer by refusing to make a cake with a slogan promoting same-sex marriage.
Legal action was launched against the business by the Equality Commission on behalf of gay rights activist Gareth Lee.
Following the judgment, Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur - the public face of the family - said he was "extremely disappointed" with the ruling. Now his parents have revealed how the case has taken its toll on them.
Colin said: "We are very disappointed with the verdict, that we have come this far and been through so much to find the verdict go against us, but we certainly know that in all things God works in many, many ways and He's certainly done a work through this here. And we certainly believe that His work will carry on and it won't end here. Personally, as a family, it has been a difficult time with the pressure of the media and the attention that's been upon us," he added.
Wife Karen admitted: "I am a wee worrier anyway, so I have been worrying a lot. We are upset that it hasn't went our way, but people have asked us that before, how will you feel, but it doesn't change how we feel about God.
"He has a purpose in it no matter what the verdict was and we believed that from the start.
"It doesn't change how we feel about God and it doesn't change anything about why we took our stand, we don't regret that for one minute. And we believe God has a plan for the future and whatever that will be we are happy to be in His plans." Supported by his wife Amy, a defiant Daniel McArthur insisted after the ruling that he did not believe the company had done anything wrong.
"Like so many others, we just want to live and work in accordance with our religious belief. We know we have done the right decision before God and we have no regrets about what we have done.
In May last year Mr Lee placed an order at Ashers for a cake with an image of Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie below the motto 'Support Gay Marriage'.
Ashers refused the order on the grounds that it was at odds with its religious beliefs.
Mr Lee told the court during a three-day hearing in March: "It made me feel I'm not worthy, a lesser person, and to me that was wrong."
However, the McArthur family told the court that they could not "stand before God" and produce a cake supporting gay marriage.
Judge Isobel Brownlie yesterday ruled that the bakery had discriminated against Mr Lee on the grounds of sexual orientation as well as his political beliefs.
She accepted that Ashers has "genuine and deeply held" religious views, but said: "There are no exceptions available under (law) which apply to this case".
Damages of £500 had been agreed in advance.
Ashers Baking Company was founded in Newtownabbey in 1992. Last year the Christian-owned business declined an order from gay rights activist Gareth Lee. Mr Lee had wanted it to make a cake that included a slogan that said 'Support Gay Marriage' along with a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. The cake was being commissioned for a civic event in Bangor, Co Down, to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The McArthurs declined to fulfil the order on the grounds that it was at odds with their Christian beliefs.