The owners of Ashers bakery in Northern Ireland say they won’t seek to recover legal costs from those who pursued them in the courts.
The bakery’s backers, The Christian Institute, said Ashers do not wish to set a precedent which may damage other religious liberty cases in the future.
And the Institute also says that by not seeking costs, Ashers are being consistent with arguments made at earlier stages of their legal case.
The case centred on whether the Christian owners of the bakery could be forced to provide a cake with the slogan ‘support gay marriage’.
When the case first went to trial, the bakery was found to have broken discrimination laws.
But the UK Supreme Court overturned that ruling, and said the bakery could not be compelled to promote a message it disagreed with.
Gay rights activist Gareth Lee took Ashers to court. His legal costs were controversially paid for by the taxpayer funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
Ashers’ legal defence was supported by the donations of Christians through The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund.
Director of The Christian Institute Colin Hart said, ‘Following consultation between Ashers, their lawyers and ourselves, it has been decided that Ashers will not be pursuing the legal costs of defending the case’.
He added that Ashers bakery ‘does not want to set an unhelpful precedent in relation to costs, even if it might benefit in the short term.’
Mr Hart explained that, in a previous case, The Christian Institute had argued that each side should pay their own costs because of the ‘wider public interest’ nature of the case.
That case in 2013 was cited when Ashers lost in the Court of Appeal in 2016. In response, the judges decided not to make a large costs order against Ashers.
Mr Hart said, ‘it is important to Ashers and to us that the approach to costs now is consistent with what was previously argued’.
Mike Judge, editor