North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds has hit out at the Equality Commission over what he describes as its “relentless pursuit” of Ashers Baking Company.
The Newtownabbey-based firm has been threatened with legal action unless it pays compensation to a customer for declining to print ‘Support Gay Marriage’ on a cake.
While the Equality Commission has accused Ashers of unlawful discrimination, the company’s Christian owners believe they are being pursued because of their Bible-based belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Ashers’ general manager, Daniel McArthur, said they will be standing up for their beliefs and will not cave in to the Equality Commission.
“This bakery does not question the sexual orientation, religion or political opinion of anyone who enters their shops to purchase a product. They simply wish to follow their conscience in relation to a slogan in favour of same sex marriage,” Mr Dodds commented.
“The Commission will spend tens of thousands of pounds of public money pursuing this action which would undermine freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Those principles should be the cornerstone of any free society, but instead we have a public body pursuing intolerance in the name of equality.
“The Equality Commission’s relentless pursuit of this company, and casting of the net ever wider, raises serious questions about exactly where their view of discrimination and equality would eventually stop,” the DUP man added.
A spokesperson for the Equality Commission said: “The Equality Commission has an important role in ensuring effective application of Northern Ireland’s equality laws and supports cases so that people are aware of, and can avail of, the protection these laws afford against all forms of unlawful discrimination. This case raises issues of public importance regarding the extent to which suppliers of goods and services can refuse service on grounds of sexual orientation, religious belief and political opinion.”