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Judgment reserved in NI cake case
30 Mar 2015 16:04
Judgment has been reserved in the case against a Christian bakery accused of discrimination because it declined to make a cake carrying a pro gay marriage slogan.
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District Judge Isobel Brownlie told Belfast County Court she wanted to give full consideration to the evidence which was presented over three days.
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The judge said: "It is not a straightforward area of the law.
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"Obviously this is a case in which I propose to reserve my judgment."
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The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland took the case against Ashers Bakery on behalf of the gay rights activist whose cake order was refused.
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Gareth Lee, a volunteer member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space, claimed he was left feeling like a lesser person when his order, which had been paid in full, was turned down two days later.
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Ashers, which is run by the McArthur family, declined the request for a cake with an image of Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie below the motto Support Gay Marriage.
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It had been ordered for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia last May.
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The Equality Commission, which has a statutory obligation to monitor compliance with equality laws, had initially asked for the bakery on Belfast's Royal Avenue to acknowledge it had breached legislation and offer "modest" damages to the customer.
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When Ashers refused, the commission, a publicly funded watchdog, proceeded with the court action.
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Earlier, Robin Allen QC, representing Mr Lee, claimed that the word gay had been the cause of the problem.
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The barrister said: "It is clear that if the word gay had been replaced by the word heterosexual, the order would have been accepted.
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"It is clear that if the word gay had been missing it would have been accepted."
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The high-profile case has divided public opinion across Northern Ireland and beyond and the public gallery was packed with Christian and gay rights campaigners.
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It had been scheduled to finish last Friday.
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