Ashers Bakery: cake recipient wishes case hadn't ended up in court

Daniel McArthur, general manager of Ashers Baking Company, speaking at the #SupportAshers rally in Belfast this week.Christian Institute

The cake which Ashers Baking Company declined to make because it said 'support gay marriage' was intended for Andrew Muir, who was Northern Ireland's first openly gay mayor.

The court case against the bakery began at the Count Court in Belfast today, but Muir has said he does not think it should have got this far.

In an interview with the BBC, Muir, who is an Alliance Party Councillor on North Down Council, said: "Unfortunately it's pitched people of religious belief against lesbian and gay people and I think that's very sad. It's not the type of society that I want in Northern Ireland where we have that adversarial set up."

The cake was ordered by Gareth Lee as a gift for Muir, who was hosting an event to mark International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Lee reported Ashers to the Equality Commission, which accused the bakery of breaching sexual orientation and political opinion discrimination laws.

The cake that was produced by another bakery.Twitter

Speaking ahead of the court hearing in Belfast, Mr Muir said: "There should always have been mediation in relation to this matter and if there's an opportunity for mediation today and tomorrow, let's go for that.

"Let's try to resolve this outside the court because legal action should always be the last resort."

The bakery's general manger, Daniel McArthur, told reporters outside the court today that he also wished the case had not ended up in court.

"We think it is wrong to use laws to force anyone to say something that they disagree with," he said, according to the BBC.

"There are obviously big issues at stake, not just for us, about things like freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. It's not easy for us being in the middle of this, we wish it hadn't happened," McArthur said.

Earlier this week a rally at Belfast's Waterfront Hall attracted thousands of Christians in support of the baking company.

The case has divided opinion, both politically and legally. First Minister Peter Robinson has criticised the Commission for bringing the case at significant public expense. But an attempt to introduce a 'conscience clause' to allow companies to turn customers away on ideological grounds is unlikely to succeed.