- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2016

A Christian bakery in Northern Ireland lost its appeal on Monday to overturn a ruling that it discriminated against a customer based on sexual orientation.

The Belfast Royal Courts of Justice said Ashers Bakery Co. “directly discriminated” by refusing to bake a cake reading “Support Gay Marriage” and depicting Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie.

Ashers Baking Co. general manager Daniel McArthur said he was “extremely disappointed with today’s verdict.”

“If equality law means people can be punished for politely refusing to support other people’s causes, then equality law needs to change,” Mr. McArthur said standing outside of the courthouse next to his wife, Amy McArthur.

The court disputed the notion that baking a cake inscribed with a message is tantamount to speech supporting that message.

“The fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either,” Northern Ireland’s lord chief justice, Sir Declan Morgan, said delivering the court’s judgment.

The appeal court also said the bakers would not have refused to make a cake supporting the traditional view of marriage.

The judgment affirmed a previous ruling in which the bakers were forced to pay £500 to local gay rights activist Gareth Lee, who ordered the cake to mark International Day Against Homophobia in 2014.

“The only thing that I would like to say is I’m relieved and very grateful to the court of appeal for the judgment,” Mr. Lee said upon exiting the courthouse.

Mr. McArthur said the bakery was unaware of Mr. Lee’s sexual orientation when it declined to fulfill his order. He said the refusal was never about the customer, but the message being promoted on the cake.

“We wouldn’t decorate a cake with a pornographic picture or swear words,” he said. “We wouldn’t even decorate a cake with a spiteful message about gay people, because to do so would be to endorse and promote it.”

The baker said he will talk with his lawyers about appealing the decision.

“But, in the meantime, other businesses will have to take advice about whether they can refuse orders that conflict with their conscience, or whether they have to be coerced as well into promoting other people’s views,” he said.

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