DUBLIN (CNS) — A Northern Ireland court ruled that a Christian bakery discriminated against a gay man when it declined to make a cake carrying a message in support of same-sex marriage.
Ashers Bakery, a family-run business that employs more than 60 people, came under scrutiny by the region’s Equality Commission for declining a request for a cake with an image of Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie below the motto “Support Gay Marriage.”
Belfast District Court Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled May 19 that, as a business, Ashers was not exempt from the discrimination law. The judge said she accepted that Ashers owners had “genuine and deeply held” religious views, but said the business was not above the law.
The firm’s general manager, Daniel McArthur, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling and was considering an appeal.
“We’ve said from the start that our issue was with the message on the cake, not with the customer, and that we didn’t know what his sexual orientation was, and it wasn’t relevant, either,” he said. “We’ve always been happy to serve any customers who come into our shops.
“The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign, no matter how much they disagree with it,” McArthur said.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church declined to comment, saying church leaders wanted to carefully consider the 15-page judgment in detail before commenting. Previously, Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, the diocese based in Belfast, called for the introduction of a conscience clause to protect businesses run by people of faith.
Ashers has been fined 500 pounds ($775).
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson criticized the Northern Ireland Equality Commission for spending 30,000 pounds of public funds in taking the case.