This week an appeals court in Belfast has heard arguments in a suit brought by baking shop owners who were found guilty of breaking Northern Ireland’s nondiscrimination laws after refusing to bake a cake with a pro-marriage equality message for an LGBT rights campaigner. Daniel and Karen McArthur, the owners of Ashers Bakery, were found to have violated the law by a district court.
In May 2014 the civil rights campaigner Gareth Lee ordered and paid for a cake from Ashers Bakery that was to contain the phrase “Support Gay Marriage.” Two days later an employee informed Lee that the bakery could not fulfill the order. Lee complained to the Northern Ireland Equality Commission, who took the case to Belfast County Court, where District Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that Ashers had directly discriminated against Lee and ordered the bakery to pay £500 in damages.
The McArthurs, who employe over 80 people across six bakery storefronts, are arguing that the nondiscrimination law violates their freedom of expression and religion. The appeals bench, which is led by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, is expected to rule on the case in the coming days.