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Ethics – Gay cake hearing set for October

July 2017

Northern Irish bakers at the centre of the ‘gay cake’ legal controversy have been granted the right to take their appeal to the UK Supreme Court in October 2017.

The ‘gay cake’ case is to go before judges sitting in the highest court in the land, to consider a possible appeal by the Belfast-based Ashers Baking Company over its refusal to bake a cake bearing the campaign slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

The Christian-owned company, operated by the McArthur family, has been dragged through the courts in Northern Ireland for more than two years by the country’s state-funded equality watchdog, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

The row started when Ashers, a Christian bakery, was asked by a customer to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan. The bakers declined the business on grounds of freedom of conscience, and offered to provide details of other local bakeries who could conduct the business.

However, the customer sued against them on grounds of discrimination, and, so far, the bakery has racked up more than £200,000 in legal bills, as well as paying £500 damages to the activist who wanted the cake. The cake would have cost £36.50.

In December 2016, at the Court of Appeal in Belfast, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said the matter should be left to the Supreme Court. Commenting on the Christian Institute website — the organisation supporting Ashers — Daniel McArthur, general manager of the bakery, said the decision was welcome. ‘The fact the Supreme Court is willing to hear arguments is very encouraging and reflects the importance of the issues and the high-profile nature of the case’.

Simon Calvert, spokesman for the Christian Institute, said: ‘The Supreme Court does not consider every case which is brought to its attention and our legal team has already started to prepare for the crucial hearings which lie ahead.

‘We understand the Supreme Court will hear initial arguments from which they will then determine if they are to grant a full appeal hearing. If the judges agree to the appeal, it will take place immediately during the two days set aside for the case to be discussed. This is a vitally important case’.