A LEGAL case involving a Christian baker who refused to make a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage slogan cannot be determined on which side shouts loudest, a court in Belfast has been told.
Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission is bringing the case against family-run Ashers Bakery on behalf of gay rights activist Gareth Lee, whose order was declined.
Belfast-based Ashers, which is owned by the McArthur family, refused to make a cake with an image of Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie below the motto “Support Gay Marriage”.
Opening the case, Robin Allen QC, representing Mr Lee, noted the publicity around the case and highlighted that politicians, church figures, bloggers and others had expressed opinions on the matter.
But the barrister insisted the case must be judged on the facts alone.
“Law must not be determined by those who shout loudest,” he said.
Mr Allen said he was not in court to challenge the McArthur family’s faith.
“This is a case about commerce and discrimination,” he said.
The case is being heard at Belfast County Court by district judge Isobel Brownlie.
The commission, which monitors compliance with equality laws in the region, has alleged that the stance of the company was in breach of legislation.
The case has sharply divided public opinion in Northern Ireland and beyond, making headlines across the world.
In the wake of the bakery’s refusal to provide the service last May, the commission, a state-funded watchdog body, took on the case on behalf of Mr Lee.
Initially, the commission asked the bakery to acknowledge that it had breached legislation and offer “modest” damages to the customer.
When Ashers refused, the commission proceeded with the legal action.
Arriving at court ahead of the hearing, Daniel McArthur, flanked by wife Amy, said he was putting his trust in God.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS