Ashers Baking Company shop in Royal Avenue, Belfast

The Christian-owned bakery at the centre of a landmark legal battle after it refused to bake a cake promoting same-sex marriage has seen its profits soar.

Co Antrim-based Ashers has posted accumulated profits of £1.5m for 2016 – up from £1.3m the previous year.

The family-owned firm lost a Court of Appeal case last year after it was found by the Equality Commission to have breached equality laws by refusing to bake a cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage.

But, according to Ashers Bakery’s financial accounts, the controversy has not translated into a dent in profits.

Instead, the company, which now has seven outlets across Northern Ireland and delivers throughout the UK and the Republic, recorded an increase in profit of £170,500 last year.

Run by husband and wife Daniel and Amy McArthur, the bakery chain was issued with legal proceedings after the Equality Commission stepped in and said it had discriminated against gay activist Gareth Lee.

The organisation argued that the business, despite being founded and run by a Christian family, had no right to refuse Mr Lee’s request for a cake bearing an image of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie alongside the message ‘Support gay marriage’.

Ashers was eventually found guilty of illegal discrimination at Belfast County Court following one of the highest profile cases in Northern Ireland in recent times.

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SOURCE: Belfast Telegraph
Claire McNeilly