NI bakery at centre of same-sex cake row reports profit growth

Co Antrim-based Ashers, the Christian bakery at the centre of a landmark legal battle after it refused to bake a cake promoting same-sex marriage, has seen its profits rise.

Ashers lost a Court of Appeal case last year after it was found by the Equality Commission to have breached equality laws by refusing to bake a cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage.

The family-owned firm has posted profits of £1.5m for the year to 31 March 2016 – up from £1.3m the previous year - in filings made at Companies House earlier this year.

Ashers, which has seven outlets across Northern Ireland and delivers throughout the UK and the Republic, is run by husband and wife Daniel and Amy McArthur.

The bakery chain was issued with legal proceedings after the Equality Commission stepped in and said it had discriminated against gay activist Gareth Lee.

The organisation argued that the business, despite being founded and run by a Christian family, had no right to refuse Lee’s request for a cake bearing an image of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie alongside the message ‘Support gay marriage'.

Ashers was eventually found guilty of illegal discrimination at Belfast County Court following one of the highest-profile cases in Northern Ireland in recent times.

The McArthurs are now considering whether to make an appeal to the Supreme Court. The McArthurs and the Christian Institute, which supported them, are liable for costs that are estimated to be in excess of £150,000.

Ashers now states on its website that people must not send content or images for cakes which contain any “threatening, defamatory, blasphemous or pornographic material”.

The bakery hit the press again last week after refusing an online order for a cake decorated with the words ‘Gay Marriage Rocks’.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a lower court’s judgement that Ashers was discriminatory – a two-day hearing for legal arguments has been listed for October.

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