NI: Ashers Baking Company may have route of appeal in ‘gay cake’ case to UK Supreme Court

NI: Ashers Baking Company may have route of appeal in 'gay cake' case to UK Supreme Court

The bakers at the centre of the “gay cake” case have been told they may have a possible route of appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

Lawyers acting for Ashers Baking Company believed their rights of appeal in the UK courts may have been exhausted following a ruling against them at the Court of Appeal in Belfast.

They asked the judges to confirm whether that was the case at a hearing on Tuesday November 22. But they were told it may be possible to seek a London hearing under a little known legal provision. This may provide them with a limited basis to seek leave to appeal.

The Court of Appeal has now asked for lawyers to make written submissions, probably within the next week.

Ashers is run by the McArthur family who are being backed in their legal battle by The Christian Institute. Their spokesman Simon Calvert said: “It is understood the scope of any appeal may be limited to arguing only on certain findings of the court although that will be dealt with at a hearing after submissions have been presented to the judges.”

The firm went to the Court of Appeal in Belfast in May in a bid to overturn a decision made last year by the County Court, which found it had broken political and sexual orientation discrimination laws.

The Court of Appeal ruled against the McArthur family, who are Christians, for refusing to fulfil an order to make a £36.50 cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage because it conflicted with their deeply-held religious beliefs.

Their lawyers wrote to the Court of Appeal asking them to confirm whether or not a route of appeal to the Supreme Court was available.

At the hearing on Tuesday November 22 the court heard there may be a possible option which will now be explored.

Ashers are required to explore all possible appeal processes in the UK courts in order to preserve the possibility of any future appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

In addition, the Attorney General, who intervened in the case at the Court of Appeal sought to refer the Ashers case to the Supreme Court on devolution issues.

The parties have also made submissions regarding the legal costs which will be examined later.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which took the case against Ashers, wants the McArthur family to pay the costs of the legal proceedings and the Court of Appeal may express a view during the forthcoming hearing.

Mr Calvert said: “In addition to their own legal action, the Attorney General sought to refer the case to the Supreme Court for it to rule on his arguments about whether the laws that were used against the McArthurs are constitutionally valid.”

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