UK & World News
Gay Cake Row Christian Bakers Face Legal Action
A Christian-run bakery which refused an order to make a pro-gay marriage campaign cake featuring a picture of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie is facing legal action.
Ashers Baking Co in Northern Ireland, where gay marriage has not been legalised, was founded by Christian directors and is run based on their religious beliefs and values, which includes not opening for business on Sundays.
Daniel McArthur, general manager of the 22-year-old company, said he and the directors considered the cake design and decided the order was "at odds with our beliefs" and "in contradiction with what the Bible teaches".
"Marriage in Northern Ireland has not been redefined. It still is defined as being a union between one man and one woman," he said in an online statement.
The Newtonabbey bakery, which is one of six run by the McArthur family, employing 62 people, refunded the customer in full and thought that was the end of the matter.
Six weeks later it received a letter from the Equality Commission threatening legal action and accusing it of discriminating against the customer on the grounds of his sexual orientation.
It asked the bakery to propose how it would recompense the customer and said it would pursue legal proceedings if the firm did not respond in seven days.
It said it would "consider any response before taking further action".
The Christian Institute, which is providing the bakery with legal support, said the request for the cake was made in May by a "volunteer LGBT activist".
It said it was supporting the bakery because "the case proves the need for the law to reasonably accommodate family-run businesses with firmly held beliefs".
Its director Colin Hart said: "All the McArthurs want is to run their bakery according to their Christian beliefs. There won't be many situations where they need to turn down an order but this is obviously one of them.
"No one should be forced to use their creative skills to promote a cause which goes against their consciences. Imbalanced equality laws are making it increasingly hard for people, especially Christians."
He added: "It establishes a dangerous precedent about the power of the state over an individual or business to force them to go against their deeply-held beliefs."
Mr McArthur said he was "surprised" to receive the letter from the equality watchdog and added: "Although we have found this experience certainly unsettling and disruptive to our day-to-day business, we are certainly convinced that we have made the right decision.
"We do continue to take the stand and stance that we do take."