Supreme Court court to visit Belfast for Ashers Bakery 'gay cake' case appeal
The UK's highest court is to hear the final appeal in the Ashers Bakery case at the end of April next year when it sits in Belfast for the first time.
The Supreme Court will sit in the Inns of Court Library at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast - only the second time in its history that it has been held outside London.
Supreme Court President Lady Hale will be joined by Deputy President Lord Mance, Lord Kerr - who is a former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland - Lord Hodge and Lady Black for up to four days of hearings.
One of the cases being heard in Belfast will be the high-profile legal argument over a cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage.
The judges will hear arguments on whether a bakery directly discriminated against a customer on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Ashers said it could not fulfil an order for a cake with "Support Gay Marriage" written on it because of religious beliefs.
The bakery's Christian owners are challenging a ruling that they breached equality laws by refusing to make a pro-gay marriage cake for an activist, Gareth Lee.
The Supreme Court is a relatively recent innovation, beginning in 2009.
Established as part of the measures included in the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005, it has taken over the judicial functions previously held by Law Lords in the House of Lords.
Lord Chief Justice Kerr is originally from Co Armagh and studied at Queen's University before being called to the Bar in 1970. Between 2004 and 2009 he served as Northern Ireland's final Law Lord.
In its first venture away from its London base last month, the court held a sitting in the Scottish capital.
The Court will also hear a case on whether a policy on allowances for widowed parents breaches human rights laws.
Lady Hale said she was delighted the court will sit in Belfast, adding: "Whilst in Belfast we shall hear two significant appeals from the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland.
"This will be a fantastic opportunity for local people to see the Court in action on their doorstep. The Supreme Court is committed to being one of the most open and accessible in the world and, like all our hearings, our Belfast cases will be live streamed via our website for everyone who cannot get to see us in person."
Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland Sir Declan Morgan said: "I believe it is important for people in this jurisdiction to have the opportunity to see the work of the Court at first hand, which can only help to enhance public confidence in the administration of justice."