Ashers Baking Company, the Northern Ireland bakers at the centre of the ‘gay cake’ case row, have been told they may have a possible route of appeal to the UK Supreme Court.
According to a statement from the Christian Institute (CI), lawyers acting for Ashers Baking Company believed their rights of appeal in the UK courts may have been exhausted following a ruling against them at the Court of Appeal in Belfast.
They asked the judges to confirm whether that was the case at a hearing on Tuesday November 22. But they were told it may be possible to seek a London hearing under a little known legal provision. This may provide them with a limited basis to seek leave to appeal, and the Court of Appeal asked for lawyers to make written submissions.
Ashers is run by the McArthur family, who are being backed in their legal battle by the CI. Simon Calvert, spokesman for the CI, said, ‘This is yet another interesting development in an increasingly complex legal case. It is the family’s belief and ours that the recent ruling undermines democratic freedom. It undermines religious freedom. It undermines free speech’.
The small family firm went to the Court of Appeal in Belfast in 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 of Appeal ruled against 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.
Ashers are required to explore all possible appeal processes in the UK courts, in order to preserve the possibility of any future appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.