Gay man felt like a ‘lesser person’ after cake request was refused

Cake with motto ‘Support Gay Marriage’ was against bakery’s ethos, court told

Daniel McArthur (second right) of Asher’s Bakery and his wife Amy McArthur (right) along with family members leave court. Photograph: Getty

Daniel McArthur (second right) of Asher’s Bakery and his wife Amy McArthur (right) along with family members leave court. Photograph: Getty

 

A gay rights activist said he was made to feel a “lesser person” after Ashers Baking Company in Belfast refused to sell him a cake bearing an image of Bert and Ernie with their arms around each other and the message, Support Gay Marriage.

Gareth Lee of the organisation Queerspace in Belfast outlined to Belfast County Court how and why Ashers bakery declined to sell him the cake, an incident that precipitated the so-called gay cake controversy.

Mr Lee, in the case which is supported by the North’s Equality Commission, is taking a civil action against Ashers in front of Judge Isobel Brownlie.

His order for the cake was taken in May last year. He wanted to buy the cake to bring it to a private event in Bangor Castle marking anti-homophobia week.

However, as he told the court, after placing the order he received a call from Karen McArthur of the family which owns Ashers to say they were refusing to bake the cake because of the “Support Gay Marriage” motto.

She explained this was at variance with the bakery’s Christian ethos. He said she was very apologetic.

Sexual orientation

“It is not very pleasant to be considered not worthy of service because somebody else says they are Christian. It does not make me feel good in any respect,” added Mr Lee. “It made me feel I am not worthy; that I am a lesser person and to me that is wrong.”

His view was that Ashers should “obey the law” and have sold him the cake.

The case which continues today has generated considerable interest.

Supporters of both sides sat in the gallery of the court. Also there were DUP Assembly member Edwin Poots and Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister.

Daniel McArthur, the 25-year-old managing director or the company which has six shops and employs 62 people, and his wife Amy sat on one side of the court with Mr Lee on the other side.

The Equality Commission and Mr Lee are represented by Robin Allen, QC, who said the case has been depicted as a case of “David versus Goliath”, with Ashers in the role of David.

Mr Allen however said that as Ashers was a £1 million international enterprise that Mr Lee should be viewed as the David figure.

“I promise not to use [any more] biblical quotations in this case – they don’t help,” he added.

Mr Allen said he was not challenging the McArthur family’s faith but the fact was they should have fulfilled the contract, as they were legally obliged to do.

“Law must not be determined by those who shout loudest,” he said. “This is a case about commerce and discrimination.”

He likened the issue to a postman delivering a letter or a printer printing a poster.

“A postman taking a letter to the door or a printer carrying out a printing job – nobody would say that involved promoting or support . . . It’s simply a functional relationship, a working relationship,” said Mr Allen.

Message

David Scoffield

“We love serving people,” he said. “Our problem with producing the cake we were asked to make last year was with the message, not the customer.

“We just didn’t want to be forced to use our creative skills to help endorse and promote a campaign message that went against our sincerely held religious beliefs. We are just trying to be faithful to the Bible.