Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has criticised a ruling against a Christian bakery for refusing to bake a pro-gay marriage cake, saying that the ruling “is a defeat for freedom of expression”.

The appeal court judges said that the owners of Ashers Bakery, in Belfast, acted illegally when they refused to bake a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”.

Belfast’s County Court ruled in May that the bakers had “unlawfully discriminated” against Gareth Lee, a gay man who requested the cake.

The appeal court upheld the original verdict by Belfast’s County Court that the bakery had breached equality legislation and should pay a £500 penalty.

Mr Tatchell said: “This verdict is a defeat for freedom of expression.” He said that although he disagreed with the bakers’ opposition to gay marriage, “in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be compelled to facilitate a political idea that they oppose.

“Ashers did not discriminate against the customer, Gareth Lee, because he was gay. They objected to the message he wanted on the cake.”Mr Tatchell warned that the ruling set a “dangerous, authoritarian precedent” which could be abused. After the judgment was delivered, Ashers’ general manager Daniel McArthur said: “We’re extremely disappointed with today’s ruling.

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