What would normally be a £36.50 cake led to a court case that cost Northern Ireland £250,000 and the defendants £200,000.

A panel of five judges of the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the McArthur family, which owns Ashers Bakery in Belfast. Ashers was fined in 2014 for declining to prepare a cake with the slogan Support Gay Marriage for gay-rights activist Gareth Lee.

The case against Ashers had the backing of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. The bakery’s costs were met by the influential Christian Institute in Newcastle.

The ruling, delivered by Lady Hale, president of the court, said the bakery had not refused the order because of Lee’s sexual orientation.

“They would have refused to make such a cake for any customer, irrespective of their sexual orientation,” she said. “Their objection was to the message on the cake, not to the personal characteristics of Mr. Lee. Accordingly, this court holds that there was no discrimination on the ground of the sexual orientation of Mr. Lee.

“This conclusion is not in any way to diminish the need to protect gay people and people who support gay marriage from discrimination,” she added. “It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person’s race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, or belief. But that is not what happened in this case.”

The equality commission is reportedly studying the judgment and has not decided on whether to pursue the case through international courts.

John Martin

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