‘Gay cake’ case: Ashers Baking Company returns to the Court of Appeal in Belfast as McArthur family pray for justice
The family at the centre of the ‘gay cake’ case have told how they are praying for justice as they prepare to return to court next week for a crucial appeal hearing.
Ashers Baking Company goes before the Court of Appeal in Belfast on Monday 9 May in a bid to overturn a decision made last year by the County Court which found it had broken political and sexual orientation discrimination laws.
The court ruled against Ashers, run by the McArthur family, who are Christians, for refusing to fulfil an order to make a £36.50 cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage because it conflicted with their deeply-held religious beliefs.
Ahead of the case the company’s General Manager Daniel McArthur said:
“It has been a long and difficult road, but we have been sustained every step of the way by the Word of God and by the many thousands of people who have supported us. Many share our beliefs about marriage. Many more defend our freedom to hold those beliefs.
“As a family we are simply hoping and praying for a just outcome so that our ordeal in court next week will be our last.”
The appeal hearing takes place exactly two years to the day that the order for the cake was placed on 9 May 2014.
A previous hearing scheduled for February was delayed following a last-minute intervention from the Attorney General – a clear indication of the legal significance of the case.
Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute, which is backing the case, said:
“We have a strong case and are looking forward to being able to put that case in court next week.
“We know there are huge numbers of people around the country who, even if they don’t support the McArthurs’ beliefs on marriage, do not think they should be compelled to promote views that go against those beliefs.
“We’re hopeful that the Lord Chief Justice and his colleagues on the bench will take the same view.”
Ashers Baking Company is owned by Colin McArthur and his wife Karen. Their son Daniel, 26, is General Manager.
After the initial court hearing in March 2015, involving a civil action taken against the company by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, the Belfast County Court found that the company had unlawfully discriminated against a customer by declining to decorate a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”.
The case was vigorously defended by Ashers. The company, again supported by The Christian Institute, is now mounting an appeal which is scheduled to be heard in the Court of Appeal in Belfast starting on Monday 9 May and which is expected to last several days.
More than 16,000 people have signed a Christian Institute petition in support of the McArthur family.
A ComRes poll conducted in March 2015 of 1,000 adults in Northern Ireland found that 90 per cent of voters say equality laws “should be used to protect people from discrimination and not to force people to say something they oppose”.
In the same poll, more than three quarters (79 per cent) stated that a Muslim printer should not be taken to court for refusing to print cartoons of Mohammed. And almost three quarters (74 per cent) believe a printing company run by Roman Catholics should not be forced by legal action to produce adverts calling for abortion to be legalised.