Tesco to review the stocking of Ashers products after judgment
Retail giant Tesco has responded to a call to state its position on stocking Ashers' products after the bakery was found guilty of discriminating against a gay customer.
The supermarket is still stocking Ashers' sausage rolls and other items on its shelves in Northern Ireland, but it said yesterday that it intended to review the judgment against the McArthur family, which owns the bakery.
It revealed the move after a tweet from a prolific blogger called for the chain to state its position on the bakery as a supplier.
Ashers bakery was found on Tuesday to have discriminated against gay rights activist Gareth Lee when it refused to supply him with a cake with a pro-gay marriage message last year.
Mr Lee was supported in his action by the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland and was awarded £500 damages.
Tesco pledges on its corporate website: "Everyone is made to feel welcome at Tesco, regardless of age, sex, disability, ethnicity, belief or sexual orientation."
Blogger Belfast Barman tweeted to Tesco after the judgment: "Any comment from @Tesco who stock Ashers sausage rolls in Coleraine branch, a company proven to discriminate on sexuality...?".
Despite it being a single tweet, Tesco replied yesterday: "We are reviewing the judgment and will discuss it with Ashers."
It added: "Tesco has a great track record of working with local suppliers, large and small, from across Northern Ireland.
"Our focus and our commitment is to serve customers in all communities, from all backgrounds and beliefs."
However, the blogger said last night that while he did not expect Tesco to reply to him, he also did not necessarily feel it was the right thing for the company to withdraw Ashers products.
He said: "Tesco should demand the utmost integrity from its suppliers so perhaps they should request Ashers to undergo equality training if they want to continue working with them."
Meanwhile, another leading grocery chain has rallied to support Ashers. Last night the Henderson Group, which runs dozens of convenience outlets, confirmed that the controversial Christian-owned bakery also supplied traybakes and biscuits to some of its Spar and Vivo shops.
It added in a statement: "As long as a supplier continues to provide quality, both of product and service, value and choice, they will continue to be a supplier."
Ashers Baking Company is a 22-year-old family-owned bakery and coffee shop business based in seven branches in Co Antrim, including a shop in Royal Avenue in Belfast.
County Court judge Isobel Brownlie delivered her judgment in what became known as the 'gay cake' row to a packed courtroom, following a three-day court hearing and seven weeks of deliberation.
The case made headlines around the world and has sparked widespread debate.
Judge Brownlie told the court she accepted that the defendants had "genuine and deeply held" religious views, but said the business was not above the law.