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European Court throws out Northern Ireland 'gay cake' case as seven-year saga ends

Gay activist Mr Lee sued on the basis that he had been discriminated against on the grounds of his sexual orientation and political beliefs
Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy, owners of Ashers bakery. Pic: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy, owners of Ashers bakery. Pic: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Ralph Hewitt

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has declared a case brought forward by Gareth Lee, who attempted to order a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan from Ashers bakery in Belfast, as “inadmissible”.

It brings an end to the seven-year Ashers ‘gay cake’ saga.

The ruling in Lee v the United Kingdom was delivered on Thursday morning in Strasbourg.

It was ruled, by a majority, that Mr Lee’s application was “inadmissible”.

Mr Lee, who is a member of the LGBT advocacy group QueerSpace, had attempted to order the £36.50 cake in May 2014 featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia from Ashers bakery.

Gay rights activist Gareth Lee. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Gay rights activist Gareth Lee. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire

It was requested the cake included the words “Support Gay Marriage”.

He was later refused as the request was at odds with the beliefs of the family-run bakery, whose owners are Christian.

Mr Lee sued on the basis that he had been discriminated against on the grounds of his sexual orientation and political beliefs.

He won his case initially in the county court and then at the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.

However, Ashers insisted it was the cake’s message, not the customer, it had objected to.

After protracted legal proceedings, Ashers eventually won an appeal in the UK’s highest court, where the company’s actions were ruled not to be discriminatory by five Supreme Court justices.

The case was then referred to the ECHR, where it was argued that the Supreme Court “failed to give appropriate weight” to him under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ECHR case differs from the previous ones in that it is being taken against the UK, as a member state of the European Court, and not against the owners of Ashers, Daniel and Amy McArthur.

More to follow...

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