1. ITV Report

Ashers bakery seeks Supreme Court bid over ‘gay cake’

Ashers, whose name has Biblical connotations, employs more than 80 people in six branches and delivers across the UK and Ireland. Photo: Pacemaker

The owners of Ashers bakery, who were recently found to have breached equality laws by refusing an order for a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan, now want to appeal to the UK’s highest court.

Their legal team believe it may not be possible to have an appeal heard in the Supreme Court because of legislation relating to civil cases, but they want judges to clarify the situation.

If that route is not open to them, the McArthur family are considering taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Simon Calvert from The Christian Institute, which has backed the McArthur family throughout the legal proceedings, said: “Under the complex rules regarding appeals in civil cases, such as the Ashers case, the Court of Appeal decision seems to be final, according to the terms of the Judicature Act 1978.”

It comes after Court of Appeal judges in Belfast last month upheld an original judgment which ruled that Ashers had discriminated against Gareth Lee for declining his order for a cake.

The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either.

– Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan

The McArthur family's lawyers have now written to the Appeal Court judges in Belfast.

Their letter stated: “In view of the complexity of these issues ... and the wider public importance which this case clearly has, and in order to make clear that the appellants (Ashers) have exhausted their domestic remedies ... we respectfully invite the Court of Appeal to consider giving a short ruling on the question of whether appeal to the United Kingdom Supreme Court is available in this case.”

In the original court case, District Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that religious beliefs could not dictate the law and ordered the firm to pay damages of £500.

Mounting an appeal, Ashers contended that it never had an issue with Mr Lee's sexuality, rather the message he was seeking to put on the cake.

The business said the slogan was inconsistent with their deeply held religious beliefs.

The appeal was heard before three senior judges at Belfast's Court of Appeal in May, with the reserved judgment delivered in October.

In delivering their ruling, Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said Ashers had directly discriminated.

He rejected the argument that the bakery would be endorsing the slogan by baking the cake.

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