Northern Ireland

'Gay cake' case: Supreme Court bid rejected

Ashers Bakery Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Ashers Bakery has been at the centre of legal action over its refusal to make a cake

Northern Ireland's top law officer cannot refer the "gay cake" case to the Supreme Court, senior judges have said.

They ruled that Attorney General John Larkin QC's bid came too late.

Mr Larkin sought to refer the verdict against Ashers bakery to the UK's highest court under devolution issues.

In October, the Appeal Court upheld a ruling against the bakery's Christian owners that their refusal to make a cake iced with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" was discriminatory.

A long-running legal battle ensued when customer Gareth Lee sued after his order was declined at the company's Belfast city centre shop in May 2014.

The gay rights activist had requested a cake depicting Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie with the slogan for an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia.

Bakery bosses refunded his money for the order because the message went against their Christian faith.

The McArthur family, who run the firm, insist their problem was with the cake and not the customer but Mr Lee claimed he was left feeling like a lesser person.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The law has sided with Mr Lee and ruled that he was unlawfully discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation and religious belief or political opinion

Last week, lawyers for the bakery were formally refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, though the McArthur family can now petition directly for a hearing in London.

Mr Larkin backed the family's case but his attempt to invoke his powers has now been rejected.

He was intending to ask the Supreme Court to rule on issues related to devolution.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan ruled in the Court of Appeal that this step came after the case had ended.

"We do not consider there are exceptional circumstances in this case which require us to re-open proceedings," he said.

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