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U.K. Supreme Court Hears 'Gay Cake' Case

Arguments in a "gay cake" case have been heard before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Ashers Bakery, a Northern Ireland establishment, appealed a lower court's ruling that it discriminated against a gay man by not baking a cake he ordered, reports BBC News.

Gareth Lee, a gay activist, ordered a pastry iced with the text "Support Gay Marriage" from the Belfast bakery in May 2014. The Christian owners — married couple Daniel and Amy McArthur — refused, saying at the time that preparing such an order would contradict their religious beliefs.

"This is a case of forced or compelled speech, unlike other cases which have come before the court," lawyer David Scoffield told the Supreme Court in the couple's defense. Scoffield said that the McCarthys were forced to "choose between operating their businesses or living and acting in accordance with their religious beliefs, and we say that cannot be the law."

Back in court today .... the ‘gay cake’ case .... 4 years after order for the cake was refused. Moreover, Scoffield claimed Lee's sexual orientation was not the basis for the refusal of service. "They would equally have refused to provide that cake with the slogan to a heterosexual customer," he said.

In response, Lee's attorney said he had "no abusive intent" in placing the order. Hearings were held Tuesday and Wednesday. Afterward, Lady Hale, the president of the Supreme Court, said a decision would not be announced "any time soon."

"This is not to say that we don't hope that it might be before the summer, but these cases are by definition complex and difficult," Hale said, reports BBC News. A decision is expected by late 2018 or early 2019.

The four-year legal battle has been a long and costly one for both sides. The Christian Institute, a U.K. evangelical group that funds Ashers' case, has spent £200,000 over the past four years. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which supports Lee, has contributed a total of £150,000.

In December, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a similar case: Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the roots of which began in 2012 when Lakewood-based baker Jack Phillips, citing religious reasons, refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig.

Phillips had appealed a 2013 decision that he had violated a state law that prohibits businesses from refusing service due to a person’s sexual orientation. His defense argued that cake decorating is his "creative expression" that is protected by the First Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision before July. (Pub 5/6)

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