Belfast Telegraph

Ashers: Call for review of Equality Commission funding - Foster praises McArthurs for 'grace and perseverance'

By Gareth Cross

DUP leader Arlene Foster has praised the owners of Ashers Bakery for pursuing their case in the United Kingdom's Supreme Court.

Mrs Foster said Amy and Daniel McArthur had shown "grace and perseverance" and that the ruling had provided clarity for "people of all faiths and none" going forward.

The Supreme Court found that Ashers had not discriminated against gay rights campaigner Gareth Lee by refusing to sell him a cake with a pro same-sex marriage slogan on it.

They overturned a previous ruling from the Belfast County Court and the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.

DUP leader Foster said that it was a "historic and seminal judgement" from the Supreme Court.

"A fundamental freedom was on trial. It is dangerous for society if our laws force people to say things they don’t believe," the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA wrote on Twitter.

"Delighted the Supreme Court has found against compelled speech. Nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which they do not believe."

DUP North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said that he had written to the Secretary of State Karen Bradley calling for a review of Equality Commission funding.

The Equality Commission supported Mr Lee's legal challenge against Ashers.

UUP MLA Steve Aiken echoed Mr Paisley's call saying that "serious questions" needed to be asked about the use of public money by the commission.

He said that public bodies needed to be "held accountable" for their actions.

TUV leader Jim Allister said that he hoped the ruling would bring the Equality Commission to "its senses".

He praised the McArthur family for their "Christian stand" and said that the issue "had run away with itself".

DUP MP Paul Girvan said that he was a friend of the McArthur family and that the decision was a victory for the whole of society.

"Today is a victory for freedom of expression in the United Kingdom and for common sense," the South Antrim MP said.

"There can be little doubt that it has significant ramifications for free speech in Northern Ireland and beyond whilst not eroding important laws against discrimination."

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