Ashers Baking Company, a Christian family-owned bakery based in Northern Ireland, has been found guilty of discrimination after the bakery refused a customer request to make a cake displaying a slogan in support of gay marriage.
Ashers Bakery was brought to court by gay rights activist Gareth Lee, whose order — an image of the Sesame Street duo Bert and Ernie with the phrase “Support Gay Marriage,” was refused.
District Judge Isobel Brownlie, of Belfast County Court, ruled against the bakery, citing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
“This is direct discrimination for which there is no justification,” Brownlie said in her ruling.
“As much as I acknowledge their religious beliefs, this is a business to provide service to all. The law says they must do that.”
The judge later reiterated that the bakery was “contracted on a commercial basis to bake and ice a cake. The plaintiff was not seeking support or endorsement.”
Gareth Lee will be awarded damages of £500 (approximately $775). Following the judgement, Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur indicated that he was considering an appeal.
Similar judgments have been brought against bakeries in the United States, including a bakery that shuttered shortly after the fallout from refusing to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple. In Indiana, a pizzeria famously took a stand against catering gay weddings and received mixed reactions.