Laws on discrimination protect people, not campaign messages, the Supreme Court has heard on the second day of the Ashers Baking Company case.
Senior judges in Belfast are considering whether the Christian family who own and run Ashers, the McArthurs, broke the law when they declined to produce a cake advocating same-sex marriage.
Today the judges heard from Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin QC who is questioning the validity of the law used against the bakery.
He again reminded the court that the issue was the message on the cake, rather than the man who ordered it – LGBT activist Gareth Lee.
Larkin made clear that Lee could, without question, buy products from Ashers, but compelling the bakery to display a message in conflict with their religious beliefs was wrong.
‘There is a fundamental distinction between objecting to a word in a message and objecting to serve a person who describes themselves with that word’, he said.
Representing the taxpayer-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, Robin Allen QC responded by claiming that the McArthurs want to be relieved of the obligations of equality law.
He compared the family’s actions to denying services to a mixed-race couple. However, Supreme Court Justice Lord Mance said that comparison was flawed.
At the end of the hearing, Court President Lady Hale said the judges will now consider their ruling.
“People will of course not expect an answer anytime soon”, she added.