‘GAY CAKE’ CASE: “SOME PEOPLE WANT THE LAW TO MAKE US SUPPORT SOMETHING WITH WHICH WE DISAGREE,” SAYS DANIEL McARTHUR, GENERAL MANAGER OF ASHERS BAKING COMPANY – BEFORE UK SUPREME COURT SITS IN BELFAST AS FIRM SEEKS TO HAVE COMPELLED SPEECH DECISION OVERTURNED
Daniel McArthur, general manager of Ashers Baking Company, said “some people want the law to make us support something with which we disagree” as the controversial ‘gay cake’ case went before the UK Supreme Court, sitting in Belfast today (Tue May 1) at the start of a two day hearing.
The highest court in the land is considering an appeal in the protracted and costly legal action against Ashers by the taxpayer-funded Equality Commission.
Ashers has mounted a vigorous defence, supported by The Christian Institute.
The small family firm went to the Court of Appeal in Belfast in a bid to overturn a decision made initially by a County Court judge who decided it had broken political and sexual orientation discrimination laws.
The judge 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.
Arriving outside the court, accompanied by his wife Amy, Daniel McArthur said (check against delivery):
“Good morning. Thank you all for coming.
“Four years ago, my family came under attack for exercising our basic right to live according to our beliefs.
“We were asked to use our creative skills to endorse a message at odds with everything we believe – and were sued because we said we couldn’t do that.
“We didn’t say no because of the customer; we’d served him before, we’d serve him again. It was because of the message. This has always been about the message.
“But some people want the law to make us support something with which we disagree.
“We’d rather it hadn’t come to this. But the Equality Commission has pushed for an interpretation of the law which extinguishes conscience.
“They seem to think that some people are more equal than others.
“This is not what the law is designed to do. And it’s not just us that feel this way. Lots of people are worried about what all this could mean.
“The general public can see this and that is why they have supported us so strongly for so long.
“We’re often asked how this case has impacted us as a family. It’s been hard.
“But we’re not on our own and we continue to trust daily in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to equip us with everything we need.
“Before Him none of us have any rights. But He graciously forgives and pours out blessings on those who trust in Him.
“It is in Him that the truest freedom can be found.
Daniel and Amy have three children – Robyn, 5, Elia, 3 and one-year-old Blythe. They are expecting a fourth child this summer.
The Supreme Court hearing takes place almost exactly four years after the bakery was approached, on May 9 2014, to make the cake bearing the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’, something which is contrary to their Christian beliefs and values.
Now, 1,453 days later, the highest court in the land will consider the matter.
The Supreme Court judges will consider two main issues:
• Whether the Appellants directly discriminated against a customer, the Respondent, on the grounds of sexual orientation, contrary to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006 (“the 2006 Regulations”), and religious and political belief, contrary to the Fair Employment and treatment (NI) Order 1998 (the “1998 Order”), by refusing to make a cake decorated with the words “Support Gay Marriage”.
• Whether the relevant provisions of the 2006 Regulations and 1998 Order breached the Appellants’ rights under Article 9 and/or 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”), separately or together with Article 14 of the Convention.
• The case follows a decision in 2014 by Ashers to decline an order placed at its Belfast shop on 9 May 2014 by a gay rights activist asking for a £36.50 cake featuring the Sesame Street puppets, Bert and Ernie, with the campaign slogan, ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
• The customer also wanted the cake to feature the logo of a Belfast-based campaign group called QueerSpace. Ashers refused to make the cake because it carried a message contrary to the firmly-held Christian beliefs of the owners.
• 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 and marriage and the family.
• Ashers Baking Company Limited was set up in 1992 by Colin and Karen McArthur, who are the owners and directors.
• The McArthurs’ son, Daniel, is the company’s General Manager. All three are Christians. They have previously refused other cake printing orders which included pornographic pictures and offensive language, since they clearly conflicted with the teachings of their Christian faith.
• 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 £10 million.
• The ECNI claims the company’s actions violate equality laws in Northern Ireland and alleges discrimination under two anti-discrimination statutes – The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006 and The Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998.
• 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”.
• The Northern Ireland Assembly has rejected five attempts to redefine marriage since October 2012.
Notes for editors
Watch a video of Daniel and Amy McArthur speaking about the court case. Recorded Feb 2016. As featured on BBC One – ‘The Battle for Christianity’.
Watch Daniel and Amy’s interview with Sky News recorded in October 2016.
Read a fact sheet with more details about the case.
Read Aidan O’Neill QC’s legal opinion on the case.