A bakery in Northern Ireland is facing legal action after it refused to produce a cake with the picture of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie in support of gay marriage. 

The Newtownabbey-based company, Ashers Baking Co cancelled the order, claiming it was against their Christian religious beliefs of the directors.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland has now informed the Irish firm that it is breaking the law by refusing to make the cake on such grounds.

Along with the Sesame Street scene, the customers had requested that the cake feature the logo of ‘Queerspace’, a Belfast-based campaign group for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in the area.

Daniel McArthur, 24, is general manager of the Christian-founded company, which has been running since 1992.

In a video made by Christian.org.uk, McArthur said: “That means we run our business according to Christian values and beliefs, according to what the Bible teaches. It means, for example, that we don’t open on Sundays and that we trade openly and honestly with people.

“The directors and myself considered [the order] and looked at it and we thought that this order was at odds with our belief - it certainly was in contradiction with what the Bible teaches - and on the following Monday we rang up the customer to let him know we could not take his order.

The Christian Institute said the case proved the need for laws to reasonably accommodate a family-run business’ firmly held beliefs, and is supporting the bakery.

Gay marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland - the only part of the UK in which it is not on the statute book.

Colin Hart, chief executive of the Christian Institute, said on its website: “This is a sign of things to come, exactly as we predicted.

“The government repeatedly failed to listen to members of the public, lawyers, constitutional experts and even its own MPs when they called for safeguards to protect those who back traditional marriage - especially those who work in the public sector.

“Now this nonsense, more usually associated with the public sector, is being applied to the private sector.

“This means millions of ordinary people who do not agree with gay marriage, face intimidation and the real threat of legal action from the forces of political correctness if they, out of conscience, decline to provide goods or services to campaign groups they do not agree with or support.

“It establishes a dangerous precedent about the power of the state over an individual, or business to force them to go against their deeply held beliefs.”

The customer was unable to comment. 

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