Published Tuesday, 08 July 2014
Ashers Baking Co. received an order for a cake with the slogan "support gay marriage" and a picture of the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie.
The manager of the business, Daniel McArthur, said they had to contact the customer to decline the request because it went against their Christian beliefs about marriage.
He said they then received a letter from the Equality Commission accusing them of discrimination and saying they could end up in court.
Speaking to The Christian Institute, Mr McArthur said: "Six months later we received a letter from the Equality Commission. It said we had discriminated against the customer on the grounds of sexual orientation. It said it would pursue legal proceedings if we didn't respond in seven days.
"This is not the first time we have had to decline an order. In the past we have declined several orders which contained pornographic images and offensive or foul language."
Alliance councillor Andrew Muir said the cake was to be produced for an Anti-Homophobia Day event which he hosted while mayor of North Down.
He said another bakery in Bangor ended up making the cake, and added that he supports the action being taken against Ashers Bakery.
"Businesses should not be able to pick and choose who they serve," said Mr Muir.
"There would not be any debate if the cake had depicted an anti-racism or anti-ageism slogan, nor should it require intervention from the Equality Commission for this cake for Anti-Homophobia Day.
"We were able to ensure that this event went ahead despite the actions of Ashers Bakery and enjoyed a great afternoon celebrating the vibrant diversity Northern Ireland enjoys."
Same-sex marriage has not been made legal in Northern Ireland.
The Christian Institute said it is backing the bakery because "the case proves the need for the law to reasonably accommodate family-run businesses with firmly held beliefs".
The charity continued: "It establishes a dangerous precedent about the power of the state over an individual or business to force them to go against their deeply held beliefs."
Malachai O'Hara from the Rainbow Project said: "In terms of the law specifically relating to this, if your service is open to the public it is open to all of the public.
"We cannot pick and choose which laws apply to us, so I can't refuse to serve people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds, I can't refuse to serve people on their faith basis.
"It's a very simple and straightforward case."
The Equality Commission said: "The Equality Commission for NI provides advice and can provide assistance to people who complain to us that they have suffered unlawful discrimination.
"In this case the Commission has granted assistance to the complainant, and has written to the company concerned on his behalf.
"The Commission will consider any response before taking further action."
© UTV News