The appeal against DJ Brownlie’s judgment in Lee v Ashers Baking Co Ltd & Anor  NICty 2 has been adjourned for three months, following a last-minute intervention by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC.
Last year, the Belfast County Court found that customer Gareth Lee had been discriminated against on the grounds of his sexual orientation when Ashers Bakery rejected an order from Mr Lee for a cake bearing the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” and a picture of the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie.
The Attorney asked to be allowed to make representations about any potential conflict between Northern Ireland’s equality legislation (which is different from the Equality Act 2010) and the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the BBC’s report, at a short hearing the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, described the lateness of the intervention as “most unfortunate”. Rescheduling the case for 9 May, he said:
“We have all tried to see if we could proceed with the case, given the amount of work that has been done. It seems to us that it is simply not possible to do that without running into some risk [to] fairness in the hearing.”
The Belfast Telegraph adds that the Court of Appeal will sit in March to hear legal argument on the compatibility of the regulations with European human rights law and to decide whether it raises a devolution point that would enable the Attorney to intervene in the case.