Two local clergy and an MLA have criticised the court ruling that a Christian-owned bakery had no right to refuse an order for a gay marriage cake.
On Tuesday a judge ruled that Ashers Bakery had discriminated against a gay customer who wanted them to bake a cake with a pro-marriage slogan.
Ashers Bakery will now be required to pay out damages of £500 to the customer concerned: gay rights activist, Gareth Lee.
Canon Jim Campbell, Rector of St Mark’s Church in Portadown, said Ashers were faced with a dilemma - a clash of their own principles and keeping the law of the land.
“As Christians living in a democracy we have to keep the law - except in a life or death situation, in which case we are martyrs. Sadly, Britain is more and more a secular society and laws are made not to satisfy the Christian principles which we hold so dear,” said Mr Campbell.
“(The McArthur family) were dealt with compassionately by the court, which didn’t impose an unreasonable fine. It’s unfortunate that another way could not have been found, but those who took the action seemed destined to take it to court.”
The Rev Neville Hughes, Rector of Mullabrack and Kilcluney, believes that the Ashers judgment makes it “even more vital” for a conscience clause to be introduced in Northern Ireland:
“It’s a very sad judgment, with the human rights of one section of society infringing on those of others who hold sincere and separate views. I understand that Paul Givan (DUP) is introducing a conscience clause to protect people like Ashers. This judgment makes it much more difficult for Mr Givan and I wish him well. The rights of Ashers are as important as anyone else’s.”
Sydney Anderson, the DUP MLA, said, “I am deeply saddened by the outcome of the court case. In my view, the misinformation that has been propagated by some must be addressed at the outset. Ashers Bakery did not, and have never, discriminated against anyone on the basis of their sexuality. They simply denied going ahead with an endorsement of a political statement in support of same-sex marriage that conflicts with their deeply held beliefs. In my view they have done nothing wrong and should never have been dragged through a court case costing thousands of pounds to the taxpayer.
“I am encouraged by the news that the McArthur family will not allow the verdict of this case to deter them from continuing to operate their family business.”
The Ashers verdict comes just days before the Republic of Ireland vote in a referendum on same-sex marriage.