A bakery in Belfast that is run by Christians, refused to make a cake showing a pro-gay marriage slogan, and has been found guilty of discrimination
The judge ruled the defendants have unlawfully discriminated on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland brought the case against Ashers Bakery on behalf of a gay rights activist whose order was refused.
The family-run bakery, which delivers across Ireland and the UK, declined the order for a cake with an image of Bert and Ernie, puppet characters from Sesame Street, with the motto Support Gay Marriage.
It had been requested for a private occasion marking International Day Against Homophobia in May 2014.
Making the ruling the Judge said: “The defendants have unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff on grounds of sexual discrimination.
“This is direct discrimination for which there is no justification.”
Judge Brownlie said the McArthur family held “genuine deeply held religious beliefs” but said that they must have been aware that Mr Lee was gay and were aware of the ongoing same sex marriage debate.
“The defendants are not a religious organisation. They are a business for profit. There are no exceptions available.
“The defendants have unlawfully discriminated on the grounds of sexual orientation.”
The judge said there were “competing human rights” in the case.
Both parties have agreed that £500 of damages are to be awarded to Mr Lee. The lawyers have seven days to raise any issues with the Ashers judgement
Lesson learned – even where you have strong religious beliefs, where you carry out a business to provide a service that service must be to all; you cannot discriminate.