Ashers case expected to be referred to Supreme Court

The Ashers case is expected to be referred to the UK Supreme Court, following a formal request from Northern Ireland’s Attorney General.

The move by John Larkin QC is separate to any appeal by the McArthur family, who own and run Ashers.

The family are still considering their legal options following a ruling by the Court of Appeal in Belfast last month, which said they had discriminated against an LGBT activist who ordered a cake with a pro-gay marriage campaign slogan.


The Attorney General has previously said the McArthur family should not be forced to express a view they disagree with.

He has also stated that in his view, if the ruling against Ashers stands, the laws used against the bakery fall foul of Northern Ireland’s constitutional law.

Mr Larkin has a unique power to refer cases to the Supreme Court if they involve devolution matters.

Responding to an enquiry by the Belfast Telegraph, a spokesman for the Attorney General confirmed that Mr Larkin was taking the case further.

Supreme Court

She added: “I can confirm that an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has been listed for hearing on November 22.”

The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs, Simon Calvert, said the McArthur family are being kept up to date on every development in the case “and await the outcome of the Attorney General’s request for a hearing at the UK Supreme Court with great interest”.

He added: “Lawyers for the McArthurs have explained to the family their understanding that there is no further right of appeal to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal has been formally asked to clarify whether this is the case.

“That request will be considered at a hearing on November 22.

‘Constitutional validity’

“Separately, the Attorney General is seeking to refer the case to the Supreme Court for it to rule on his arguments about whether the laws that were used against the McArthurs are constitutionally valid.

“We understand that the court will also deal with the Attorney General’s request at the hearing on November 22.

“A reference to the Supreme Court on constitutional matters would not itself be an appeal of all the issues previously heard in the Court of Appeal.”

“Given all these details it is obvious that this is a highly complex legal case.


“However, the Attorney General’s involvement in this case shows the scale and scope of the issues at stake.

“He has unique constitutional powers to raise the key issues with the Supreme Court and the very fact that those issues are now being raised shows how important this case is and how far-reaching the consequences of it may be.”

Following the disappointing judgment against Ashers last month, the public response has been overwhelmingly supportive of the McArthur family.

The Telegraph and The Guardian published editorials in favour of Ashers and gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell reiterated his support for the bakers, calling the outcome a “defeat for freedom of expression”.

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