A Christian-owned baking company in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland was told by authorities to make a gay-themed Sesame Street wedding cake and apologize or face a court order and possible jail time for refusing to make the cake, reports say.
Ashers Baking Co. reportedly refused to make a cake featuring Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie arm-in-arm above a banner that was to say “support gay marriage.” Authorities said that the refusal to make the cake is “unlawful religious, political and sexual orientation discrimination” against the gay customers.
The baking company reused to make the cake in May of this year because it would be against the company owners’ religious beliefs.
“Daniel McArthur, general manager of the firm, said it would amount to endorsing the campaign for the introduction of same-sex marriage, and go against his conscience,” the UK Telegraph reported on November 5.
Not long afterward the customer, Gareth Lee, complained to Britain’s Equality Commission. The commission then sent a letter to the bakery threatening legal action unless the company made the cake, apologized to the customer, and paid “immediate compensation.”
The commission also sent a 16-page letter to the central government saying that it had determined that the bakery had violated equality laws and must compensate the customer for having upset him.
“This letter… is to be understood as a letter of claim which, in the absence of both an immediate acknowledgement that there has been an unlawful breach of the equality laws set out above and an unconditional offer of adequate recompense to Mr. Lee, will be followed by litigation,” the letter states.
But Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute, says that the commission’s stance is illogical. “If supporting same-sex marriage is a protected political opinion, so is supporting traditional marriage. Yet the Commission clearly favors one view over another and is prepared to litigate to prove it,” he said.
The McArthur family, though, say they are being unfairly attacked for their religious beliefs. “We feel that the Equality Commission are pursuing us because of our beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
The McArthurs also said that they intend to hold to their deeply held religious principles. They will not make the cake, nor will they apologize to the jilted customer.
Several bakeries in the US have already faced similar attacks. In one case, bakery owner Jack Phillips was told to serve gay clients in Colorado despite that doing would violate his religious beliefs.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.