The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has agreed to take up an appeal by a Christian family-owned bakery that refused to make a cake with a message in support of marriage equality.
In 2014, Ashers Baking Co., based in Northern Ireland, refused to make a cake decorated with the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie and the words, “Support Gay Marriage,” arguing that it went against their religious beliefs.
After 8: the UK's Supreme Court is sitting in Belfast to consider an appeal by the Christian-owned Asher's Bakery over whether their refusal to make a cake iced with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" was discriminatory; @PeterTatchell and @CiaranMoy discuss the case pic.twitter.com/22TR7QWFh6
— Good Morning Ulster (@BBCgmu) May 1, 2018
Same-sex marriage is still illegal in Northern Ireland. (Marriage equlaity came to neighboring nation the Republic of Ireland in 2015.)
Lower courts ruled in favor of the customer, calling the refusal discriminatory.
Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy (photo below) attended the hearing in Belfast on Tuesday, where their lawyer, David Scoffield, told the Supreme Court called the previous ruling, if allowed to stand, “a case of forced or compelled speech,” and characterizing the couple’s stance as “a genuine objection in conscience,” reports the BBC.
He added that the couple objected to the content of the message they were asked to produce, “not the characteristic of the customer,” activist Gareth Lee.
Lee’s attorney, Robin Allen, told the court his client was not aware of the couple’s religious beliefs, and did not place the order with any “abusive intent.” The cake was meant for an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, observed on May 17 every year.
Lee’s order wasn’t the only order the couple has refused due to their religious beliefs.
Last year, the McArthurs refused to make a cake celebrating a gay couple’s engagement. That couple chose not to sue.
The court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of the year, or in early 2019.
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a similar case, where Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips contends being made to provide wedding cakes for a same-sex couple runs counter to his faith and would violate his First Amendment right to free speech. A ruling in that case is expected sometime this summer.