One of Northern Ireland's top legal experts is to join the court team of gay cake row bakery Ashers.
Professor Christopher McCrudden of Queen's University has been enlisted for the team led by David Scoffield QC.
He is Professor of Human Rights and Equality Law at Queen's and William W Cook Global Law Professor at the University of Michigan Law School. Until 2011 he was Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. He studied law at Queen's, Yale University and Oxford University.
The news emerged as lawyers for the bakery lodged court papers giving detailed explanations of the grounds for appeal following a court decision last year that ruled the firm had discriminated against a customer by refusing to make a £36.50 cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage and featuring Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie, after initially accepting the order.
Professor McCrudden's appointment has been made in advance of the legal appeal which will be heard over two days starting on Wednesday, February 3.
In May last year a judge at Belfast County Court ruled that the bakery had acted unlawfully.
The court ordered Ashers to pay £500 damages after Judge Isobel Brownlie said the customer had been treated "less favourably" contrary to the law, and the bakery had breached political and sexual orientation discrimination regulations.
The case made headlines all around the world with Christians from different countries offering support to the bakery's owners. The McArthur family, who own and run Ashers, decided to challenge the ruling following consultation with their legal advisers.
The family's defence costs are being supported by the Christian Institute (CI). CI spokesman Simon Calvert said: "We are delighted to have such a formidable legal expert join an already strong team. Professor McCrudden's experience and knowledge of human rights and equality law will be of incalculable assistance.
"We look forward to the hearing and remain confident that the McArthur family have a good case, which deserves to win."