Belfast ‘gay cake’ case cannot be referred to the Supreme Court, say judges

The so-called Belfast “gay cake” case will not go to the UK supreme court. The bid by Northern Ireland attorney general to get the UK’s highest court to review rulings against Ashers Bakery has failed.

Attorney General John Larkin QC sought to refer the verdict against the bakery to the UK’s highest court, under devolution issues. But his bid came too late, ruled the judges.

In his ruling on Wednesday the lord chief justice, Declan Morgan, said that the attorney general’s move came after the case against the McArthur family-owned firm had ended.

“We do not consider there are exceptional circumstances in this case which require us to re-open proceedings,” Sir Declan said in his judgement.

This follows the decision by the Appeal Court in October to uphold the ruling against the bakery’s christian owners, which found that when they refused to make a cake iced with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” for a customer, it was discriminatory.

Gay rights activist Gareth Lee tried to buy a cake decorated with Sesame Street characters for an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia in 2014.

However, bosses at the bakery refunded his money and didn’t make the cake, saying that the message went against their Christian faith.

The family insist their problem was with the cake and not the customer, however, Lee claimed he was left feeling like a lesser person.

Last year Belfast County Court held that the bakery had unlawfully discriminated against him on grounds of sexual orientation and religious belief or political opinion. The firm paid £500 in compensation to Lee, whose legal action was supported by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

In addition to the Northern Ireland attorney general’s bid being rejected, lawyers for the bakery have also been refused leave to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.

However, the McArthur family can now petition directly for a hearing in London, a move which they reportedly intend to take.

Insights: read Christopher Braganza views on the case here.

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