An opinion poll suggests that seven out of ten of Northern Ireland's adults oppose legal action being taken against a bakery for refusing to supply a cake with a slogan supporting gay marriage.

The action against Ashers Baking Company is due to be heard in Belfast County Court later this week.

Last July, a gay rights activist asked the Belfast branch of the bakery for a cake decorated with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage".

His order was rejected by a company director because the message clashed with his Christian convictions.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is now pursuing the bakery's directors in the courts, claiming they have broken laws banning political and religious discrimination as well as discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Today's opinion poll findings are based on research commissioned by the Christian Institute, which is supporting Ashers in the court battle.

It was conducted by ComRes, a member of the British Polling Council.

The week before last, ComRes interviewed by phone 1,000 people chosen to provide a representative cross-section of the North's adult population.

27% agreed that the Equality Commission should be taking Ashers to court while 71% disagreed.

77% said the Equality Commission should not be spending public funds on the case while 90% said equality laws should be used only to protect people from discrimination and not to force people to say something they oppose.

As recently as last year, a proposal to legalise gay marriage was rejected narrowly by the Stormont Assembly.

However, the Equality Commission continues to support its introduction.