A Belfast court has adjourned the appeal case of Ashers Bakery, delaying proceedings for three months until May 9.
The announcement came yesterday (February 3) after the pro-Christian McArthur family behind the company appealed the £500 fine they received for refusing to make a sponge cake with a pro-gay message, the BBC reports.
Last year, the Belfast court found the bakery had discriminated against customer Gareth Lee on grounds of sexual orientation and political beliefs.
At the time, Lee was represented by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission, who paid almost £39,000 in legal fees.
Just as the two-day appeal hearing was scheduled to commence, Attorney General John Larkin QC wrote to the court at the last minute, highlighting a potential conflict between Northern Ireland’s equality legislation, and European human rights legislation.
Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has called the last minute intervention “most unfortunate”.
“We have all tried to see if we could proceed with the case, given the amount of work that has been done,” he said
“It seems to us that it is simply not possible to do that without running into some risk of fairness in the hearing. We are not going to proceed with the hearing today.”
Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur said the Attorney General’s decision to get involved showed that the case “raises matters of crucial importance”.
“While the delay means it will be exactly two years to the day that the order was placed which led to the case, we are patient people and will now await the next stage in the process and remain confident that our case is right and just,” he said in a statement.
Equality Commission chief commissioner Dr Michael also expressed disappointment in the delay of the case, reports The Telegraph.
“We came here today for this very important case and we were looking forward to hearing the arguments,” he said.
“We are very disappointed that at this very late stage another argument has come in and that has to be resolved. The reality is it could take months.”