Ashers Baking Co in Northern Ireland returned the order for the cake, saying that it went against the director’s religious beliefs.
Northern Ireland is the only UK jurisdiction where same-sex marriage is not legal, and the bakers reportedly believed that the decoration on the cake, along with the logo of the Queer Space volunteer group, was an endorsement of the campaign to legalise gay marriage.
However the Newtownabbey bakery has since received a letter from the Equality Commission threatening legal action, if it refuses to depict Bert and Ernie, arm in arm, with the statement supporting same-sex marriage.
The Newtownabbey bakery is being supported by the Christian Institute, which described the customer as an “LGBT activitist”.
The Christian Institute said: “The case proves the need for the law to reasonably accommodate family-run businesses with firmly held beliefs… When the order came through to the head office, the manager and directors decided to decline the request on conscience grounds, and offered a full refund.”
Colin Hart, chief executive of the Christian Institute, also told The Telegaph: “This is a sign of things to come exactly as we predicted.
“The government repeatedly failed to listen to members of the public, lawyers, constitutional experts even its own MPs when they called for safeguards to protect those who back traditional marriage, especially those who work in the public sector.
“Now this nonsense, more usually associated with the public sector, is being applied to the private sector.”