You may remember, just the other day, how I spoke about the Ashers Bakery and their court case over their refusal to bake a cake endorsing gay marriage.
As I discuss in the article linked above, the owners Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy have appealed the ruling that had their actions put down as discriminatory. Now their case has been adjourned for three months.
This adjournment followed an intervention from the Northern Ireland’s Attorney General. This was a last minute request from the Attorney General John Larkin QC, who requested to make representation in the case about any potential conflict between the region’s equality legislation and European human rights laws.
Sir Declan Morgan, Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice, described this the rather late intervention as “most unfortunate”.
When discussing the fact that the case has been delayed until May 9, Morgan said: “We have all tried to see if we could proceed with the case, given the amount of work that has been done. It seems to us that it is simply not possible to do that without running into some risk of fairness in the hearing. We are not going to proceed with the hearing today.”
Daniel McArthur spoke on the Attorney General’s decision to get involved, saying that it proved that the case “raises matters of crucial importance”.
He continued, saying: “While the delay means it will be exactly two years to the day that the order was placed which led to the case, we are patient people and will now await the next stage in the process and remain confident that our case is right and just. As a family, we believe we should retain the freedom to decline business, which would force us to promote a cause with which we disagree.”
Simon Calvert, a spokesperson for the Christian Institute who are financially backing the McArthurs, had this to say: “The court has adjourned because of important issues which are at stake. The Attorney General has raised new issues which we were neutral about and the court wants to hear them. This development clearly underlines what we have said all along – that this is a really important case.”
Earlier on in the day, Equality Commission chief commissioner Dr Michael Wardlow said: “One of the things the Equality Commission does is support people when we believe they’ve been discriminated against, when it raises a strategic issue that allows us to challenge discriminatory practice. In this particular case, we believe that this happened. Judge Brownlie ruled to that effect.
“We’re here today once again supporting Gareth [the man who asked the couple to bake the cake] because that decision has been appealed, and we hope today that the three judges will agree that Judge Browlnee’s judgement stands.”