Happy customers of Ashers Baking Company have told a Northern Ireland newspaper of their support for the Christian-run bakery at the centre of a major court case.
Customers said Ashers should not be forced to promote ideas that go against their beliefs, in comments that came while the family were on trial at Belfast County Court.
The case, which entered a third day this morning, concerns the bakery’s decision to decline to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan. The Christian Institute is supporting the bakery.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, one family said they had travelled for an hour just to show their support for Ashers and its owners the McArthurs.
An office worker, who stated he has a brother and a sister who are both homosexual, said he regularly uses the bakery because: “I like Ashers’ food and I back their position on refusing to add the gay marriage slogan to that cake”.
Another customer said: “We live in a time where we have to stand up for what we believe”, adding: “People like the McArthurs shouldn’t be forced to do things they don’t believe in.”
Margaret Banford from nearby Newtownabbey commented: “I like to support the McArthurs whenever I can because of all that is happening in the court. And the bonus is that the food is lovely”.
Sam McConkey explained why he had increased his visits to the bakery: “I’ve been coming here even more regularly than before because I believe Ashers and other businesses should have the choice about what they do and don’t do”.
Michelle Wilson, from County Antrim, said: “I feel that when you are in a company you should be able to produce the services that you want. And if you don’t want to do something, you shouldn’t be forced to.”
The newspaper reported that some customers were unhappy with Ashers’ stance, but commented that the branch was “under virtual siege from scores of customers who were there to show their support for the McArthur family”.
The case is being taken to court by the taxpayer-funded Equality Commission.
The Commission claims that Ashers broke discrimination laws, but the bakery were unaware of the sexual orientation of the customer – and did not want to endorse a message with which they disagreed.