MPs launch petition against move to prosecute Ashers

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Local MPs William McCrea, Nigel Dodds and Sammy Wilson have launched a petition in protest at the Equality Commission’s decision to take legal action against Ashers Baking Company over its refusal to fulfil an order for a cake carrying a slogan supporting gay marriage.

The Newtownabbey-based business is facing a civil case after the Equality Commission accused it of “unlawful discrimination.”

The owners of the bakery, the McArthur family, deny discrimination and stand by their decision not to produce the cake, stressing that its pro-gay marriage message conflicts with their Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The company has received widespread support for its stance, including from senior church leaders and political representatives, who believe that the issue as “a matter of conscience.”

The Christian Institute, which is supporting Ashers in its legal fight, has accused the Equality Commission of “wasting taxpayers’ money” - a view echoed by Mr Dodds, Dr McCrea and Mr Wilson.

The petition launched by the three DUP MPs reads: “We the undersigned express our concern at the use of public funds by the Equality Commission to pursue a prosecution against Ashers Bakery because of their refusal to promote gay marriage. We note that Ashers Bakery are not guilty of discrimination, they have not refused to sell their products to anybody on the basis of their sexual orientation nor have discriminated in any other way.”

Members of the public wanting to sign the petition can do so by calling in to any of the local DUP Advice Centres.

The Equality Commission has stressed that “a decision as to whether or not discrimination has occurred will be a matter for the court.”