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Gay marriage cake controversy - Christian bakery faces legal action

Published time: July 08, 2014 13:58
Edited time: July 08, 2014 19:58
Puppets Ernie (L) and Bert from Sesame Street (Reuters / Larry Downing)

Puppets Ernie (L) and Bert from Sesame Street (Reuters / Larry Downing)

A Christian-owned bakery which refused to produce a novelty cake featuring Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie and the slogan “support gay marriage” is facing legal action from a government equalities agency.

A Christian-owned bakery which refused to produce a novelty cake featuring Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie and the slogan “support gay marriage” is facing legal action from a government equalities agency.

Ashers Baking Co, based in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, canceled the order, which also featured the logo of the gay rights group QueerSpace, saying that it went against the owners’ religious convictions.

Producing the cake, they said, would amount to endorsing the campaign for gay marriage in the province, the only part of the UK where it has not been brought onto the statute book.

Image from facebook.com

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland wrote to the firm claiming it is breaking the law by discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation, ordering them to “remedy your illegal discrimination” within seven days or be taken to court by the commission.

The Christian institute, supporting the bakery, says it is not discriminatory for managers to refuse to endorse a political campaign.

Colin Hart, chief executive of the Christian Institute, told the Telegraph newspaper: “This is a sign of things to come exactly as we predicted.

“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.”

Hart claims that millions of people who do not agree with gay marriage face intimidation and the threat of legal action from the “forces of political correctness.”

“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,” he said.

While the customer was unwilling to comment, a spokesman for The Rainbow Project, affiliated with QueerSpace, told RT the legal complaint was correct and that the “untenable situation” for gay marriage in Northern Ireland posed awkward constitutional questions.

“The Equality Commission have made a very reasoned application of the law and were right to say legally the bakery was wrong to deny service to this customer,” the spokesman told RT.

“We’re in an untenable situation here where a Northern Irish gay couple can go anywhere else in the UK and get married, but when they return home their marriage is reclassified as a civil partnership without their consent. This throws up all sorts of constitutional issues for the UK,” he added.

“I think it is important that Christians are able to air their views so that we are able to allay those worries. It would be wrong however for the Church to get involved in political campaigning.”

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was given Royal Assent in England, Scotland and Wales last year, coming into force on March 13 of this year, but it is yet to be introduced to the Northern Irish province.