Gay cake: DUP MPs launch petition in support of Ashers bakery in Newtownabbey
Three DUP MPs have launched a petition in protest at the Equality Commission’s "persecution" of a Co Antrim bakery which refused to make a cake with a slogan in support of gay marriage.
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' and is being taken to court.
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland took on the case on behalf of the customer.
DUP MPs William McCrea, Nigel Dodds and Sammy Wilson have joined together to express their concern at the "use of public funds" by the Equality Commission.
They have launched their petition in support of the bakery which has businesses located in their constituencies.
The petition reads: “We the undersigned express our concern at the use of public funds by the Equality Commission to pursue a prosecution against Asher’s Bakery because of their refusal to promote gay marriage.
"We note that Asher’s Bakery are not guilty of discrimination, they have not refused to sell their products to anybody on the basis of their sexual orientation nor have discriminated in any other way.
"We believe that businesses should have the freedom to decide what message they promote and what messages they do not promote. This is an essential choice in a free society and we believe that the action by the Equality Commission is anti-democratic, is discriminatory and is an abuse of public funds.”
The petition will be available at DUP Advice Centres within North Belfast, South Antrim and East Antrim.
In a joint statement the three MPs said: “We believe that it is important that the public stand up against this anti-democratic persecution of a small business by the Equality Commission and a waste of public funds by this Government body.
"We would encourage everyone to demonstrate their support by signing this petition."
The cake row has made international headlines.
Previously the First Minister Peter Robinson described the situation as "bonkers".
Court papers were served on the owners of Ashers Bakery Company Ltd last Thursday - despite the public furore from Christians and faith-based groups over the news of the impending legal action.
Speaking previously Daniel McArthur of Ashers said: "We just can't believe that they're serious about this, that they're going to spend money taking us to court because we didn't make a cake
"The general consensus is shock that the Equality Commission is pushing ahead with legal proceedings.
"People are surprised that despite us being a small family business and making our principles clear that they are still commencing court proceedings."
Belfast Telegraph Digital