Christian bakers shouldn't face legal action over cake row, most think

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A new poll reveals most people are sympathetic towards people who refuse to provide services because of their beliefs on marriage.

The poll was carried out in response to legal action being threatened against a Christian bakery in Northern Ireland that turned down an order for a pro-gay marriage cake.  Gay marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland.  

The order to Ashers Baking Company came from Gareth Lee of LGBT advocacy group QueerSpace, who asked for the cake to be decorated with a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, and the words "Support Gay Marriage" above the QueerSpace logo.

The bakery informed Lee that the order was being declined because they were a Christian bakery.

It has since received a letter from the legal division of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland stating that proceedings would be issued before a county court unless it took steps to "remedy your unlawful discrimination against Mr Lee".  

Lawyers for the McArthur family have reportedly said the bakery could be made to pay £2,000 in damages.

Daniel McArthur, 24, who oversees the day to day operations of the family business told the Daily Mail that the family was not discriminating against gay people.  

"As we don't believe in gay marriage, and did not want to be associated with a politicised campaign, mum phoned the customer to explain politely that we could not accept the order, and would be returning his deposit," he said.

"She explained how we have turned down orders when they involved swear-words, nudity, or images that go against our faith.

"We are not discriminating against gay people.

"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."

He added: "We pray that God will give us the strength to fight this.

"I am sorry for any distress we have caused but we are staying true to our beliefs."

The ComRes poll of over 2,000 adults suggested support for a generous interpretation of equality laws, with only a fifth (21 per cent) thinking businesses that turn down goods or services promoting gay marriage should face legal action.

Over half (56 per cent) said they should not face legal action.  

A similar percentage (55 per cent) supported legal protection so that those with traditional views on marriage are not forced to provide goods or services that contradict their beliefs.