Owners of a bakery in Northern Ireland refused to make a cake featuring Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie for a customer’s pro-gay marriage event and is facing a fine and a court appearance. The owners are Christians and say that making the cake would go against their religious beliefs.
Newtonabbey-based Ashers Baking Company was informed by Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission that it needed to provide the cake to Gareth Lee, who wanted to purchase the cake to mark “International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia” in County Down, according to The Telegraph and BBC. The incident transpired in July.
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Daniel McArthur, general manager of Ashers, issued a statement, saying his family and company feel they are being targeted because of his religious beliefs:
“We feel that the Equality Commission are pursuing us because of our beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
“It feels like a David and Goliath battle because on one hand we have the Equality Commission who are a public body, they’re funded by taxpayers’ money, they have massive resources at their disposal, whereas we are a small family business and we have limited resources at our disposal.
“We’re continuing to hold to the stand that we took originally because we believe it’s biblical, we believe it’s what God would want us to do, and we also think that if we do cave in to the Equality Commission at this point it’ll put pressure on other citizens who are defending their view of traditional marriage.”
The Equality Commission wrote a 16-page letter to the company ordering them to compensate or risk going to court.
From the letter, according to The Telegraph:
“This letter … is to be understood as a letter of claim which, in the absence of both an immediate acknowledgement that there has been an unlawful breach of the equality laws set out above and an unconditional offer of adequate recompense to Mr. Lee, will be followed by litigation.”
But Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of the Christian Institute in the UK, an organization supporting Asher’s, said Wednesday the Equality Commission is just targeting the company for its religious beliefs:
“It is simply baffling for a body supposedly working for equality to be threatening a Christian family with legal action, all because of a cake. The Equality Commission has taken four months to dream up new grounds on which to pursue the McArthur family, claiming that they’ve breached political discrimination laws.
“If supporting same-sex marriage is a protected political opinion, so is supporting traditional marriage. Yet the Commission clearly favors one view over another and is prepared to litigate to prove.”