NORTHERN IRELAND: Thousands Rally In Support Of Anti-Gay Bakery
Hundreds of people including three senior DUP politicians had to be refused entry to a full-to-capacity Waterfront Hall in Belfast last night as thousands of Christians turned up for a rally in support of the Newtownabbey bakery firm which is going to court to defend their refusal to bake a cake for a gay activist. Former ministers Sammy Wilson and Edwin Poots joined the current Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey in a crowd which sang hymns outside the Waterfront as inside, Daniel McArthur, the manager of the Ashers Baking Company, vowed that he and his family would not back down in the dispute over his family's decision to cancel an order for a cake because of a request for it to be decorated with a slogan supporting gay marriage. Officials from the Christian Institute, who are supporting the McArthur family's legal action at Belfast County Court, had to close the hall before the rally was due to start because all seats were taken. Deputy director Simon Calvert apologised to the hundreds of people who were refused admission and there were cheers as he explained that the support had overwhelmed the hall's limits.The bakery had been asked to make a cake featuring Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie with the message "Support Gay Marriage." The court case opens today and the bakery is being represented by the anti-gay Christian Institute, which has been pushing for a "conscience clause" bill similar to the the "license to discriminate" bills seen in the United States. Among last night's speakers was British bed and breakfast owner Hazelmary Bull, who fought and lost a years-long court battle after being fined for turning away a gay couple. Television cameras were not permitted inside the hall.