Northern Ireland

'Gay cake' case: Judgement is reserved at Belfast court

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Media captionAshers Baking Company was faced with a discrimination case, brought with the support of the Equality Commission

Judgement has been reserved at the end of the 'gay cake' case in Northern Ireland.

A barrister for Christian-run County Antrim firm Ashers said if they lost the discrimination case there would be wide-reaching consequences for shop owners.

He said it would mean a Muslim printer could not refuse to print a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

The case in Belfast was taken by gay rights activist, Gareth Lee.

He placed the order for the cake with Ashers.

No indication has been given when the judgement will be issued.

The barrister for Mr Lee told the County Court in Belfast that businesses needed to make clear in advance what they would and would not do.

He said Ashers had nothing in their terms and conditions to prevent them baking the cake which Mr Lee ordered.

Earlier, the role of the Equality Commission in the case was defended in court.

The commission has set aside a fund of up to £40,000 to pay for legal costs in the case.

It has been criticised in recent months by a number of unionist politicians over the decision to take the case.

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Image caption Gareth Lee, who placed the cake order with Ashers, outside court on Monday

A barrister for Mr Lee said the Commission was the "guardian" of anti-discrimination laws.

He said it was duty-bound to defend them.

"The Equality Commission has statutory duties to uphold the law," the lawyer added.

He defended the fact that an out-of-court settlement was not reached.

Cost

"It (the Commission) can never be allowed to compromise on what it believes is the law," he said.

The total cost of the case has yet to be determined.

Last week, before the case began, an Equality Commission spokesperson said: "We can confirm that £8,586.60 has been spent on this case to date.

"The final costs will be not known until the case is concluded."

Outside the court on Monday, Daniel McArthur, general manager of Ashers, said they were grateful that the case had now concluded.

"We are very thankful to all those who have supported us," he said.

"It has been a stressful time for our family but most of all we are thankful God has sustained us through it all and we now await the verdict and the outcome from the judge."

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