Man who took bakery to court over gay cake loses case but vows its not over

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A complaint by a Northern Ireland gay rights activist that he had been discriminated against when the Christian owners of a bakery refused to make him a cake has been thrown out of court.

Gareth Lee accused Ashers bakery in Belfast of homophobia after they declined to write "Support Gay Marriage" in icing on a £36.50 custom cake featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie for a private function marking the International Day Against Homophobia.

His order was accepted and he paid in full in May 2014, but the Christian owners later called to say it could not proceed due to the message requested.

Mr Lee then launched the legal case, supported by Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission, alleging discrimination on the grounds of his sexuality, and won hearings at the county court and the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal in 2015 and 2016.

In 2018, UK Supreme Court has already ruled Mr Lee was not discriminated against in 2018, PA reports.

Mr Lee then referred the case to the ECHR, claiming the Supreme Court had failed to give appropriate weight to him under the European Convention of Human Rights.

But now the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled the case inadmissible as they say the activist failed to "exhaust domestic remedies" in the long-running so-called "gay cake" case.

In a written ruling today, the ECHR said: "Convention arguments must be raised explicitly or in substance before the domestic authorities.

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"The applicant had not invoked his Convention rights at any point in the domestic proceedings.

"By relying solely on domestic law, the applicant had deprived the domestic courts of the opportunity to address any Convention issues raised, instead asking the court to usurp the role of the domestic courts.

"Because he had failed to exhaust domestic remedies, the application was inadmissible."

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Mr Lee’s lawyer, Ciaran Moynagh, added: “Given the position the European court has taken, we will now consider whether a fresh domestic case is progressed.

“The substantive issues raised by my client in his application to the ECHR remain unaddressed and this is a missed opportunity.”

Owners of Ashers, Daniel and Amy McArthur – backed by the Christian Institute – challenged those rulings at the Supreme Court, and in 2018 five justices unanimously ruled they had not discriminated against the customer.

The Christian Institute welcomed the ECHR ruling, saying it was the “right result”.

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