Owners of a bakery in Northern Ireland are standing firm in their Christian beliefs despite facing litigation after refusing to decorate a cake with a message supporting gay marriage.
Ashers Baking Company was served with an intent-to-sue letter from an LGBT advocate in June after declining to complete an order for him a month prior. Despite the pending lawsuit, the bakery owners say they will not change their stance.
Gareth Lee of LGBT advocacy group QueerSpace ordered a cake with a photo of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie in an embrace, and the words "Support Gay Marriage" above them. The cake also included the QueerSpace logo.
The order was accepted and paid for by Lee, but two days later he received a follow-up call. According to the intent-to-sue letter, a woman informed him that the business was a Christian bakery, his order could not be completed, and he would receive a refund.
The owners of the bakery, Colin and Karen McArthur, are semi-retired, and their eldest son, Daniel, runs the day-to-day operations of the business.
Daniel said that after discussing the cake order as a family, they declined to fulfill the purchase.
"We talked about it as a family, weighing up what our conscience told us against the risk our response might get some public attention," he told the Daily Mail in an interview published Friday.
"As we don't believe in gay marriage, and did not want to be associated with a politicized campaign, mum phoned the customer to explain politely that we could not accept the order, and would be returning his deposit.
"She explained how we have turned down orders when they involved swear-words, nudity, or images that go against our faith."
The intent-to-sue notice states that the McArthur's decision was a violation of Northern Ireland's 2006 Equality Act prohibiting discrimination "in the provision of goods, facilities, and services to a person seeking or obtaining to use those goods, facilities, or services on the grounds of sexual orientation."
Daniel said that the family's decision was not prejudicial.
"We are not discriminating against gay people," he told the Daily Mail.
"Our church's definition of marriage is clear: it's a covenant between a man and a woman, a 6,000-year-old tradition, which is ordained by God. Sexual activity outside marriage is a sin."
The family is represented by the Christian Institute in the litigation, and will continue to fight the charges against them.
"We pray that God will give us the strength to fight this," Daniel said.
"I am sorry for any distress we have caused but we are staying true to our beliefs."