'˜Praying for justice' in gay cake row judgment
People around the world will have been 'praying for justice' ahead of today's ruling over the so-called 'gay cake' battle, a DUP MP has said.
The Court of Appeal in Belfast is to deliver its judgment at 10am on the controversial case, which was taken against Ashers bakery after its Christian owners refused to bake a cake with a message supporting same-sex marriage.
The McArthur family, which owns and runs the small family firm, are contesting an earlier ruling which said they were guilty of discrimination.
The landmark case has made headlines across the world and provoked intense debate.
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson believes if the ruling is not overturned, it could set a “dangerous precedent” and have “worrying implications” for other businesses across the Province.
“Like many other right-thinking people, I am hopeful that the ruling by the Court of Appeal will be a victory for common sense,” he added.
“If the judgment goes against Ashers, it could have serious consequences for freedom of expression in Northern Ireland.”
Daniel McArthur, general manager of Belfast-based Ashers Baking Company, and his wife Amy will be in attendance at court today to hear the judgment delivered.
Mr McArthur is expected make a brief statement to the media ahead of the ruling.
The Christian Institute is backing the McArthur family’s case, and its deputy director for public affairs, Simon Calvert, claimed today’s ruling will have “far-reaching implications”.
He added: “Around the world, those who are concerned for free speech will be paying close attention to the judgment of the Belfast court.
“The case may centre around a single cake but the ramifications for the way society deals with dissenters are enormous.”
Peter Lynas, former barrister and Evangelical Alliance NI director, said the Ashers case “is not about special protection for Christians”.
He added: “The mark of a democratic society is that competing views are discussed and debated. Forcing someone to promote a view that they fundamentally disagree with is the antithesis of a free and fair society. Let’s hope justice is done.”
The Northern Ireland Equality Commission, which monitors compliance with the region’s anti-discrimination laws, took the landmark civil action on behalf of Gareth Lee, a gay rights activist.
Mr Lee had requested a cake depicting Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie below the motto “Support Gay Marriage” for an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia.
The McArthur family refunded his money for the order because the message went against their strong Christian beliefs.
In May last year, a Belfast judge ruled the company had discriminated against Mr Lee on grounds of sexual orientation and religious belief or political opinion.
The firm was also ordered to pay £500 compensation to the complainant.
The ruling was welcomed by John O’Doherty, director of LGBT campaign group The Rainbow Project, who said: “The judge clearly articulated that this is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification.”