The highest court in the United Kingdom has ruled in favour of a bakery that refused to make a cake decorated with a message in support of gay marriage.
The series of legal cases through the Northern Irish and British court systems began in 2014 when the County Antrim bakers declined to make a cake for gay rights activist Gareth Lee which would have featured a picture of the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie with the message, "Support Gay Marriage", saying the message conflicted with their religious beliefs.
It is deeply humiliating, said the president of the UK Supreme Court, to deny someone a service due to their sexual orientation. "But that is not what happened in this case", Lady Hale said.
Five Supreme Court justices allowed a challenge by the McArthur family, whose Ashers bakery business is in Belfast, in a unanimous ruling.
In that case, Lady Hale said, the bakery had refused to serve a particular customer, rather than refusing to decorate it with a particular message as in the Northern Ireland case.
Lady Hale continued: "The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or supported at marriage, but that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake over with a message with which they profoundly disagreed".
The bakery went on to fight the finding of discrimination at a Supreme Court hearing in Belfast in May.
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, a tax-funded organization, funded and directed the attack on the bakery. "We always knew we hadn't done anything wrong in turning down this order", he added.
It wasn't immediately clear if the plaintiffs plan to appeal the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights.
Lee ordered the cake in Belfast for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia. He supports the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom province, the only part of the United Kingdom where same-sex marriage is not allowed.
Speaking outside the Supreme Court after the judgment was handed down, Gareth Lee said: "To me, this was never about a campaign or a statement". They would have rejected the cake regardless of the sexual orientation of the customer. They entered into a contractual agreement to make this cake and then changed their mind.
Christian Institute Deputy Director for Public Affairs Simon Calvert said: "We are delighted at this common-sense ruling".
"This is a timely judgement in bringing common sense to an issue which, fuelled by LGBT activists and extremists, had run away with itself".
The freedom not to express an opinion which one does not hold is also protected by article 10 of the convention, which provides that everyone has the right to freedom of expression.
This conclusion is not in any way to diminish the need to protect gay people and people who support gay marriage from discrimination.
"As well as meaning that Asher's can not be legally forced to aid the promotion of same-sex marriage, it also means that gay bakers can not be compelled by law to decorate cakes with anti-gay marriage slogans", Mr Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said.
"The only way we can win is with people power sweeping the country and pushing back against those who want to outlaw, discriminate and disrespect the community", the west Belfast MLA wrote on Twitter.
"Family businesses like ours are free to focus on giving all their customers the best service they can - without being forced to promote other people's campaigns".