Asher's gay cake row reaches Supreme Court
The long-running legal battle over a Belfast bakery's refusal to bake a cake bearing a pro-same-sex marriage message reaches the UK's Supreme Court next week.
It's the latest - and final -twist in a case which has captured headlines all over the world, as the bakery's Christian owners challenge a lower court ruling that they breached equality laws by refusing to make the cake for an activist, Gareth Lee.
It's the first time the UK's highest court has met in Northern Ireland.
Five of the twelve Supreme Court judges will hear the appeals - among them Lord Kerr, formerly Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.
In the run up to the Supreme Court hearing, the Christian Institute - which backed Ashers Bakery, who were represented in court by director Daniel McArthur, in their legal battle - are holding a series of meetings around Northern Ireland to brief supporters on the issues at stake in the Supreme Court appeal.
The Supreme Court will also hear an appeal on the decision to withhold a widow's payment of £2,000 from unmarried Belfast mum Siobhan McLaughlin.
Siobhan McLaughlin (46) had four children with groundsman John Adams but, despite living together for 20 years, she was denied a £2,000 lump sum bereavement payment when he died in 2014.
Her application for a widowed parent allowance, which could have meant up to £118 per week, was also refused.
In 2015 Ms McLaughlin won a case at the High Court where she argued the refusal to pay her widow's allowance discriminated against her on the grounds of marital status - and breached her human rights.
However, the decision was overturned on appeal and the matter will now be finally decided by the Supreme Court.
The proceedings in both the cases will be broadcast live over the internet - another first for the legal system here.
Supreme Court officials said that they were anticipating considerable public interest in both cases, and court officers are expecting a large number of visitors. The Supreme Court confirmed yesterday that a special ticketing system will be put in place. Anyone who is unable to attend in person can watch the hearings live via the UK Supreme Court's web stream.
The hearings will be in the Inn of Court, which is in the Bar Library off the Great Hall of the Royal Courts of Justice, between Monday, April 30, and Wednesday, May 2, 2018. The five Supreme Court Justices who will hear the two cases are Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Hodge and Lady Black.