THE owners of a Northern Ireland bakery are facing legal action after refusing to bake a cake supporting gay marriage.
Daniel McArthur, the general manager of Ashers Baking Company, manages his parent's firm which was named after a verse in the Bible, and is a firm believer that Christians should be allowed to run their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs.
The gay cake row erupted in May of this year when a gay activist named Gareth Lee, from pressure group QueerSpace approached the Belfast bakery chain and ordered a cake decorated with the words 'support gay marriage'.
The Daily Mail reported that the cake's design also included the organization's name and two characters from Sesame Street.
The order was gladly accepted by the shop's staff, but the bakery owners, Colin and Kevin McArthur alongside their son Daniel, were of the opinion that the gay cake's message was not in accordance with their religious beliefs and contacted Mr Lee to inform him the cake would not be baked.
The bakers who have previously refused to bake cakes portraying sexual images or featuring bad language offered Mr Lee a full refund for his troubles.
Upon hearing he couldn't have his cake and eat it, Mr Lee lodged a complaint with the Equality Commission who have in turn warned the bakery that the law does not allow them to turn down an order to bake the cake.
A letter from the Commission reads:
"We have advised Mr Lee that you have acted unlawfully and contrary to Regulation Five of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 which prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services to a person seeking or obtaining to use those goods, facilities or services on the grounds of sexual orientation."
The Christian Institute pressure group, who supported the Cornwall hoteliers Peter and Hazelmary Bull after they refused to room a gay couple because they were not married, will now back the bakery in any forthcoming legal battle.
Christian Institute chief Colin Hart said:
"The Government repeatedly failed to listen to members of the public, lawyers, constitutional experts, even its own MPs when they called for safeguards to protect those who back traditional marriage, especially those who work in the public sector. "Now this nonsense, more usually associated with the public sector, is being applied to the private sector. This means millions of ordinary people who do not agree with gay marriage face intimidation and the real threat of legal action from the forces of political correctness if they, out of conscience, decline to provide good or services to campaign groups they do not agree with or support. "It establishes a dangerous precedent about the power of the state over an individual, or business to force them to go against their deeply held beliefs."