The Christian owners of Ashers Baking Company, a business based in Northern Ireland, are back in court this week, appealing a decision last year that found them guilty of discrimination for refusing to make a cake with a message that supported homosexuality.
"Two years ago today we were asked to help promote a campaign to redefine marriage in Northern Ireland," Daniel McArthur, general manager of the company, said outside of the Court of Appeal in Belfast, North Ireland, on Monday, according to a transcript. "We never imagined that two years later we would find ourselves still living with the consequences of that request."
McArthur said that the owners were continuing their battle to overturn the discrimination claim in hopes that they, among others, will not be "required to endorse a view that goes against our conscience."
He said that the free-speech ramifications for the case are sweeping, sharing his belief in the Bible and in Jesus Christ.
"This was never just a case about one little bakery in Belfast," McArthur continued. "It’s always had implications for freedom of expression throughout the U.K."
As TheBlaze previously reported, the McArthur family has been at the center of headlines since a man named Gareth Lee requested a cake in 2014 that included the line “support gay marriage” along with an image of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie. The cake was reportedly for the International Day Against Homophobia.
The bakery refused and chaos — and legal battles — ensued.
Ashers bakery owners Colin and Karen McArthur were taken to court under Northern Ireland’s 2006 Equality Act, which makes discrimination illegal. A court found the bakery guilty of discrimination and forced them to pay $765 in damages for “injury to feelings” to Lee.
Despite the bakers’ punishment, gay marriage remains illegal in Northern Ireland, adding to the bizarre nature of the case.
Government officials have defended the case and are hoping that the ruling is upheld:
Ashers Baking Company is being supported by the Christian Institute, a U.K. legal group, as it appeals last year’s court ruling that demanded that the company pay out the damages; court arguments began on Monday.
"They could not in conscience provide a product with a message that was inconsistent with their deeply-held religious beliefs in circumstances where the evidence was clear that they believed that to do so would be sinful," attorney David Scoffield said, according to the Belfast Telegraph. "Discrimination must be against the person, not against an idea or an object."
He continued, "A cake cannot have a political opinion or a religious belief, it is a person who can do so."
Attorneys for the bakers argued in court that the opposition to the cake had to do with the message and not the individual purchasing it. The hearings are expected to extend for four days, the BBC reported.
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