The Court of Appeal in Belfast has today allowed Northern Ireland’s most senior lawyer to give detailed arguments in the Ashers Baking Company case.
Attorney General John Larkin QC raised an arguable case that anti-discrimination laws in Northern Ireland directly discriminate against those who hold certain religious beliefs, judges ruled.
So far, the total cost combined for both sides is likely to have exceeded £100,000.
The Christian Institute is supporting Ashers Baking Company in their stand for biblical marriage, after they were sued for not decorating a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.
Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, described the court case as a “legal, political and theological saga” but noted that Ashers’ owners are hugely grateful for all the support they have received.
In court today Mr Larkin said there was a theological context to the way sexual orientation regulations were considered in the case.
legal, political and theological saga
“The McArthur family’s legal costs are well over £50,000 and I’m sure the Equality Commission’s costs are at least as high.
“So the case has generated combined legal costs which has broken the £100,000 barrier.”
He continued by saying that the McArthurs had to defend themselves from the legal action and that much was at stake.
They are, he said, “being punished for having mainstream, deeply-held religious beliefs”.
Noting that the Equality Commission is taxpayer-funded, he stated that some people are funding both sides through taxes and The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund.
“That’s lots of ordinary people like us making small donations in defence of the McArthurs and their freedom to express their beliefs without the coercive influence of the state.
“The McArthur family are hugely grateful to the public for their financial, moral and spiritual support”, he concluded.