Gareth Lee ordered a cake with the slogan “support gay marriage” in 2014, but the Christian-owned Ashers Baking Company refused to bake it.

The firm was originally ordered to pay £500 compensation to Mr Lee. The judge found that Ashers had acted unlawfully and directly discriminated against Mr Lee on grounds of his sexual orientation and political beliefs. Lee was backed by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

After losing the appeal, Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur expressed his “extreme disappointment”.

The McArthur family are now considering taking their case to the Supreme Court, or if that fails, the European Court of Human Rights.

According to an Evangelical Alliance survey, nine in ten evangelicals are on the side of the Christian-run bakery. Throughout the legal battle, Ashers has been supported by the Christian Institute, which has organised public rallies and garnered financial backing for the case.

Simon Calvert from the Christian Institute pledged the family would not have to worry about the £88,000 legal bill they are now faced with.

Speaking to Premier he said, “We will back the family all the way and so the family don’t have to worry about the cost.”

The organisation had spent £200,000 itself in legal costs, he said. Former Conservative MP and well-known Christian Ann Widdecombe has defended Ashers, writing in the Daily Express, “If a heterosexual couple or a single person had come in to the shop and asked for the same slogan to be put on a cake the bakers would still have refused.

“It is illogical to suggest that the issue was the sexuality of the customer rather than the slogan itself.”

 She said that “Britain now comprehensively fails” when it comes to the ability of an individual to exercise freedom of conscience.