A Christian family in Northern Ireland is being threatened with legal action for refusing to bake a cake in support of gay rights yesterday hit back, saying they should be able to run their business in line with their religious beliefs.
Ashers Baking Company – named after a verse in the Bible – turned down an order for a cake featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie and the slogan ‘Support gay marriage’.
They were threatened with legal action after the gay rights activist who placed the order complained that equality laws had been breached. But yesterday general manager Daniel McArthur said he was determined to make a stand.
Gareth Lee placed the order several weeks ago at a branch of Ashers in Belfast, one of six shops run by the Northern Ireland-based business. It is named after one of the 12 tribes of Israel. According to the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament, ‘Bread from Asher shall be rich and he shall yield royal dainties.’
Mr Lee wanted a ‘celebration cake’ decorated with an image of Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie, who have been adopted as unofficial mascots by same-sex marriage campaigners in the US based on an urban myth that they are gay couple.
It was to have featured the slogan ‘Support gay marriage’.
The request was passed to 24-year-old Mr McArthur’s parents, Colin and Karen, the firm’s founders, who declined to fulfil the order as it went against their religious beliefs, offering a refund instead.
‘It was in contradiction with what the Bible teaches and on the following Monday we rang up the customer to let him know that we could not take his order,’ he said.
Mr Lee is understood to have complained to the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, which wrote to Ashers warning of legal action in the county court for breaching the law by discriminating against the customer on the grounds of his sexual orientation.