The Christian Institute

News Release

Gay cake case: Judges allow Attorney General involvement as court costs top £100,000

The Christian Institute

Thursday, 03 March 2016

For immediate release

Senior judges in Belfast have decided that Northern Ireland’s Attorney General, John Larkin QC, has raised an arguable case that anti-discrimination laws in the Province directly discriminate against those who hold certain religious beliefs.

Following the decision, Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute, which is supporting the McArthur family in the case, said:

“The Attorney General has decided to intervene, using his constitutional power to raise questions about the validity of the legislation used against the McArthurs.

“And it is clear from the decision taken by the three judges, including the Lord Chief Justice, that he has raised matters of importance.

“These will now be fully argued when the appeal comes before the court in May.

“By the time the full hearing takes place it will be two years since the cake at the centre of what has become a legal, political and theological saga was ordered.

“So far, the case has generated legal costs on both sides which, combined, have broken the £100,000 barrier.

“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.

“People are entitled to ask whether the Equality Commission should have chosen to bring the legal action over a £36.50 cake.

“But the McArthur family had no choice but to defend themselves. For them there is a lot more at stake than a cake, or the £500 damages they were ordered to pay by the county court.

“Because they are being punished for having mainstream, deeply-held religious beliefs.

“Those beliefs don’t leave them when they leave church on a Sunday.

“Nor can they be thrown off when they leave home for work.

“They are committed, every minute of every day, to trying to follow the teachings of Christ, including his plain teaching about the nature of marriage.

“For that reason they could not help promote same-sex marriage by making the campaign cake they were asked for.

“Now a £36.50 cake has cost £100,000. And that’s before today’s hearing, and the lengthy hearing expected to run for several days in May.

“It is 665 days since the cake was ordered on 9 May, 2014. And we are a long way from securing a legal resolution to the case.

“The public purse and hard-working taxpayers are funding the Equality Commission. Some of those same taxpayers are also funding the McArthurs by donating to 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.”



  1. Ashers Baking Company is being assisted by The Christian Institute, a non-denominational national charity which since 1991 has been working on issues including religious liberty, marriage and the family.
  2. Ashers Baking Company Limited was set up in 1992 by Colin and Karen McArthur, who are the owners and directors.
  3. The McArthurs’ son, Daniel, is the company’s General Manager. All three are Christians. They previously refused other cake printing orders which included pornographic pictures and offensive language since they clearly conflicted with the teachings of their Christian faith.
  4. On 9 May 2014, volunteer LGBT activist, Mr Gareth Lee, asked for a cake to be decorated with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”. The order was later declined by the owners.
  5. The order was declined because it promoted same-sex marriage, not because the customer was gay. It was the message the bakery was objecting to, not the customer.
  6. The legal action against Ashers Baking Company is being funded by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) – a taxpayer-funded public body with an annual budget in excess of £6 million.
  7. The ECNI is in favour of introducing same-sex marriage. Its website states: “The Commission supports the introduction of legislation permitting same sex marriage…including sufficient safeguards for religious organisations”
  8. The Northern Ireland Assembly has rejected five attempts to redefine marriage since October 2012.