A Northern Ireland bakery run by Christian owners has lost their appeal over their refusal to make a cake saying: “Support Gay Marriage”.
The appeal court upheld the original court’s decision that Ashers in County Antrim discriminated against gay rights activist, Mr Gareth Lee.
Three senior judges heard the appeal in Belfast in May and the reserved judgement was delivered on Monday.
Appeal court judges said that, under law, the bakers were not allowed to provide a service only to people who agreed with their religious beliefs.
In delivering the appeal judgment, 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.
“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,” he said.
Daniel McArthur, the company’s general manager, insisted Mr Lee’s sexuality was never an issue, rather the message he wanted the bakery to create.
Mr Lee claimed the episode left him feeling like a lesser person.
Speaking after the ruling, Mr McArthur said that “if equality law means people can be punished for politely refusing to support other people’s causes, then equality law needs to change”.
He added: “This ruling undermines democratic freedom. It undermines religious freedom. It undermines free speech.
“We had served Mr Lee before and would be happy to serve him again. The judges accepted that we did not know Mr Lee was gay and that was not the reason we declined the order. We have always said it was never about the customer, it was about the message. The court accepted that. But now we are being told we have to promote the message even though it’s against our conscience.
“What we refused to do, was to be involved with promoting a political campaign to change marriage law.
“Because we’re Christians we support the current law. And we felt that making this cake would have made us responsible for its message.
“We wouldn’t decorate a cake with a pornographic picture or with swear words. We wouldn’t decorate a cake with a spiteful message about gay people. Because to do so would be to endorse and promote what was said.”
The Lord Chief Justice also stated that the Equality Commission could have done more to advise Ashers around the case and how to reconcile that with their own religious convictions.