"Star Trek" icon Patrick Stewart has come to the defense of Northern Ireland's Ashers Bakery, which was found guilty of discrimination last month after refusing to prepare a cake decorated with a same-sex marriage slogan.
The case made headlines in 2014 after Belfast-based activist Gareth Lee requested a cake featuring "Sesame Street" characters, along with the message, "Support Gay Marriage." Although the bakery's owners initially accepted the order, they called two days later to cancel it, citing their religious beliefs.
In response, Stewart called the Ashers case "a deliciously difficult" subject in an interview with BBC's Newsnight, adding that he "found himself on the side of the bakers" because nobody should be forced to write politically-relevant text that they didn't support.
"It was not because it was a gay couple that they objected. It was not because they were celebrating some sort of marriage or an agreement between them," Stewart is quoted as saying. "It was the actual words on the cake that they objected to, because they found them offensive."
He went on to note, "I would support their rights to say, 'No, this is personally offensive to my beliefs, I will not do it.'"
The remarks may come as a surprise to some fans of Stewart, who has previously spoken out in defense of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. In January, the actor said his background in theater made him a natural LGBT advocate.
“I think this is where the theater is such an appealing world, because it embraces everything and always has. So there was never a moment where I made an intellectual choice that I would be a supporter of gay civil rights," he said at the time. "It was always a natural and uncomplicated choice."
Update: Patrick Stewart has clarified his position on this issue via a statement posted to his Facebook page: