Ashers case is about the cake not the customer says Attorney General

The Northern Ireland Attorney General, John Larkin, has spoken at the Court of Appeal asking for the decision in the Ashers bakery case to be overturned.

Ashers Baking Company were found to have discriminated against a customer, Gareth Lee, who had requested a cake with the slogan "support gay marriage". The order was taken and paid for at the bakery but Mr Lee was subsequently told that they could not fulfil it as the content was contrary to their religious beliefs. Mr Lee made a claim of discrimination against Ashers Baking Company and was successful. An appeal was brought and the Attorney General requested permission to take part on the basis of his submission that sexual orientation laws in Northern Ireland discriminate against people who hold religious or political opinions.

Mr Larkin told the Court of Appeal that this was not a case of discrimination against Gareth Lee. He argued that it would be if the bakery had refused to sell any product in their store because of his sexual orientation, but that this was not the case. He argued that the case is a matter of expression, and whether it is lawful to force a business "to articulate or express or say a political message which is at variance with their political views and in particular their religious views".

The barrister for Mr Lee rejected the claim that the owners, the McArthur family, were being forced to do something against their beliefs, saying businesses regularly print messages on marketing material etc that they do not necessarily associate with. He gave the example of printing companies producing posters for candidates in the Assembly election.