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Ashers: Grounds for appeal

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The owners of Ashers Baking Co, who were told by a judge last month that they had ‘discriminated’ against a customer for refusing to bake a cake promoting same-sex ‘marriage’, have outlined the grounds on which they plan to appeal that ruling.

Judge Isobel Brownlie, sitting at Belfast Court, ordered the McArthur family to pay £500 in damages for “injury to feelings” after ruling that the bakery had “directly discriminated” against the customer on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The Judge said she recognised that the McArthur family, who owned the bakery in Northern Ireland, “hold genuine deeply held religious beliefs” but that “whilst defendants have right to religious beliefs they are limited as to how they manifest them.”

Ashers Bakery was asked to make a cake decorated with the slogan ‘support gay marriage’, but declined on the basis that to do so would compromise their Christian beliefs. LGBT activist Gareth Lee, who placed the order, also requested a picture of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie in an embrace and a logo of the homosexual pressure group, QueerSpace, where he acted as a volunteer.

Management informed Mr Lee that the bakery, run by the McArthur family, would be unable to produce the cake due to a conscientious objection and offered to give him a full refund.

But the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, a Government-run quango, launched a civil action against the bakery, claiming that it had discriminated against Mr Lee on the grounds of sexual orientation.

It alleged discrimination under two anti-discrimination statutes – The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006 and The Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998.

The bakery is being supported by the Christian Institute.

Looking ahead

The lawyers acting on behalf of the McArthur family are asking three pivotal questions. Firstly, whether the judge was correct, as a matter of law, to hold that Ashers had discriminated against Mr Lee directly on grounds of sexual orientation.

Secondly, whether the judge was correct, as a matter of law, to hold that Ashers had discriminated against Mr Lee directly on grounds of religious belief or political opinion.

And finally, whether the judge was correct, as a matter of law, to hold that Ashers was not entitled to protection as a result of the rights under Articles 9 and/or 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The appeal has yet to be formally approved. If the appeal is granted, it will most likely be set down for the autumn.

Daniel McArthur said of their decision to appeal the judgment: “We continue to insist that we have done nothing wrong as we have discriminated against no individual but rather acted according to what the Bible teaches regarding marriage.”

“Our hope and prayer would be that an appeal will allow us and other Christians to live out their faith in Jesus Christ in every part of their lives, including their workplace.”

Related News:
Ashers Baking to appeal 'discrimination' ruling   
Ashers Bakery: Judgment handed down in 'gay cake' row   

Related Coverage: 
'Gay cake' case: Ashers bakery outlines discrimination decision appeal grounds (BBC)