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Gay marriage cake: A row that has become seriously over-egged

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Bert and Ernie 'Support Gay Marriage' cake

Bert and Ernie 'Support Gay Marriage' cake

Photopress Belfast

Bert and Ernie 'Support Gay Marriage' cake

Listening to Fr Tim Bartlett, the Christian Institute and the other devout souls backing Ashers bakery, you would think the McArthur family were about to become Christian martyrs and Fr Bartlett was being pushed onto the pyre behind them.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ashers has seven bakery outlets here, but none of their publicity suggests it is anything but a commercial outfit.

That is why, when a customer ordered a cake decorated with the slogan 'Support Gay Marriage' and a picture of Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie, he didn't expect hassle.

Ashers is a high street store and they cater for this sort of event and celebration food.

It was intended for a function in support of same-sex marriage being hosted by Andrew Muir, the then mayor of North Down.

The staff took the order and the deposit but later Daniel McArthur, the boss's son, rang the customer to cancel.

He told his customer that Ashers "could not fulfil that particular order as it clashed with the ethos of the business".

He added that they "have refused other orders in the past, such as images incorporating nudity or bad language".

Whether intended or not, that was insulting. A humorous cake design advocating gay marriage with the help of two puppets is not the same as an obscene picture or curse words. We shouldn't get things out of proportion - like Fr Bartlett who said he was breaking off all contact with the gay advocacy organisations "until the right of all people, in this case Christians, to freedom of conscience is vindicated and respected by the Equality Commission and the gay community".

But the McArthurs also have a point.

No doubt the family felt uncomfortable about the cake. Yet the best way to deal with it would have been to get on with their work and not be sucked into a Christian Institute test case.

Belfast Telegraph