Ashers Baking Company loses: A sad day for marriage

May 19, 2015

Today is a sad day for supporters of marriage. It’s a very disappointing day for the family-run Ashers Baking Company in Northern Ireland. And it’s a day when those seeking to coerce people to say something they don’t believe in have secured a victory.

Today Judge Brownlie ruled against the McArthur family – owners of Ashers Baking Co – for declining to produce a cake with a pro-gay marriage campaign slogan.

Judge Brownlie accepted arguments from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland which claimed that Ashers had broken sexual orientation and political discrimination laws.

The judge rejected the McArthur family’s position that they declined to produce the cake for Gareth Lee with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” because of that message – rather than the customer who asked for it.

Speaking outside the court this morning Daniel McArthur – Ashers’ General Manager – said: “We’ve said from the start that our issue was with the message on the cake, not the customer and we didn’t know what the sexual orientation of Mr Lee was, and it wasn’t relevant either. We’ve always been happy to serve any customers that come into our shops.

“The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign no matter how much they disagree with it. Or as the Equality Commission has suggested, they should perhaps just close down, and that can’t be right.

“But we won’t be closing down, we certainly don’t think we’ve done anything wrong and we will be taking legal advice to consider our options for appeal.”

Ahead of the court hearing, a legal opinion from Aidan O’Neill QC gave examples of other scenarios that could arise in the event of a defeat for Ashers.

They included a Muslim printer who didn’t want to print images of Mohammed. Would he now be forced to do so? Or the Roman Catholic-run company that declines an order to produce adverts calling for abortion on demand to be legalised?

After today’s result these possibilities are more likely to become a reality.

On this sad day for marriage, show that you stand with the McArthurs by using #SupportAshers on social media.