A bakery in Northern Ireland that refused to make a cake with the message "support gay marriage" has been found guilty of discrimination.
Belfast County Court Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that Ashers Baking Company in Belfast violated the law when its Christian owners declined to make the cake for Gareth Lee, a gay rights activist, according to the Guardian.
The McArthur family — owners of Ashers Baking Company — are Christians who oppose same-sex matrimony. Despite their sincerely held religious views, Brownie said that the government must protect gays from being turned away from businesses.
The owners will reportedly be fined more than $500 in addition to court costs.
"The defendants are not a religious organization. They conduct a business for profit," the judge said. "As much as I acknowledge their religious beliefs, this is a business to provide service to all. The law says they must do that."
Ashers’ general manager Daniel McArthur said in a statement issued through the Christian Institute, the U.K. legal group representing the company, that the owners are "deeply disappointed" by the judge's ruling.
McArthur reiterated the bakery's claim that it was the message — and not Lee — that Ashers rejected in its decision not to make the cake.
"The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign no matter how much they disagree with it," he said. "Or as the Equality Commission has suggested, they should perhaps just close down, and that can’t be right."
Ashers Baking Company is considering an appeal and has pledged not to close down in the wake of the ruling.
"We certainly don’t think we’ve done anything wrong and we will be taking legal advice to consider our options for appeal," McArthur said, adding that the family has received support from Christians across the globe. "The fact is that because of the case we have had more opportunities to talk about our Christian faith and the Lord Jesus Christ and for that we can be very thankful to God."
As TheBlaze previously reported, the case against Ashers was brought by Northern Ireland’s equality commission. Problems began for the bakery after Lee requested that the cake include the line "support gay marriage" along with an image of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie. Ashers Baking Company responded by citing its owners’ evangelical Christian faith in the refusal, the Guardian reported.
The refusal to make the cake resulted in a legal conundrum, with the bakery being taken to court under Northern Ireland’s 2006 Equality Act, which makes discrimination illegal.
Front page image via Shutterstock.com.