The United Kingdom's highest court is scheduled to make a ruling Wednesday on a four-year-old case that the British media have dubbed the "gay cake" case.
The case involves Ashers Baking Company, a family-run bakery located in Belfast, which declined in 2014 to make a cake carrying an image of the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage."
Daniel and May McArthur, the bakery's Christian owners, have maintained they are happy to serve anyone but to have made this particular cake would have been to endorse the campaign for the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland and would have gone against their religious convictions.
Gay rights activist Gareth Lee took legal action against the McArthur family and won the case in county court in 2015. The court ruled the bakery had breached political and sexual orientation discrimination regulations and ordered it to pay £500 damages for injuring the customer's feelings. The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal upheld the ruling a year later.
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) has supported Lee's legal action.
The Belfast Telegraph reports the attorney for the bakery's Christian owners, argued the state is penalizing the bakery with the courts forcing them to make a cake bearing a message they disagree with as a matter of religious conscience.
Dr. Sharon James, a social policy analyst, and commentator on marriage, says the outcome of this case could have long-term lasting effects for freedom of speech and belief in the UK.
"It is quite wrong for anyone to be compelled to endorse the campaign for same-sex marriage – or any other campaign to which they are conscientiously opposed for that matter," James said in a press release. "The merits of the McArthurs' position are apparent to almost everyone. I am hopeful that this court will overturn the injustice of the current ruling and exonerate Ashers Baking Company."