(Courthouse News Service) A Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his religious beliefs will fight discrimination claims before the Supreme Court next term, the justices said Monday.
When the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins in 2012, owner Jack Phillips said it would violate his Christian beliefs.
Phillips believes that decorating cakes is an art through which he honors God, and thus it would upset God to create cakes in celebration of marriages between same-sex couples.
Craig and Mullins filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Courts, which found in favor of the couple. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission also found that Phillips violated state anti-discrimination laws and ordered him to change his policy against making wedding cakes for same-sex couples or be subject to fines.
Hoping to overturn the commission’s findings, Masterpiece Cakeshop tried to distinguish the opposition of same-sex marriage from discriminating against sexual orientation.
The Colorado Court of Appeals shut down this argument 3-0 in 2015, however, and the state’s highest court refused a year later to take up the case.
On Monday, the Supreme Court granted Masterpiece’s ensuing petition for certiorari.
Per the court’s custom, the order does not include any statement on the case. The justices did grant a motion of Foundation for Moral Law to file an amicus brief.
When the cake shop lost its appeal in 2015, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project emphasized in a statement that no U.S. citizen “should be turned away from a shop or restaurant because of who they are or who they love.”
“When every lesbian or gay person, every woman, every person of color, every person of every faith can walk into a store, a bank, a hospital, and know that they will get the same service as everyone else, we will have won. Until then, we continue to fight for the equal treatment we all deserve,” the ACLU’s Ria Mar added.
The appeals court refused to place much stock in the fact that Phillips’ religious opposition to same-sex marriage has not stopped him from making other baked goods for gay or lesbian customers.
“We reject Masterpiece’s related argument that its willingness to sell birthday cakes, cookies, and other non-wedding cake products to gay and lesbian customers establishes that it did not violate CADA,” Judge Daniel Taubman wrote for the court, abbreviating the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. “Masterpiece’s potential compliance with CADA in this respect does not permit it to refuse services to Craig and Mullins that it otherwise offers to the general public.”
Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, focused at the time on religious freedom.
“Government has a duty to protect people’s freedom to follow their beliefs personally and professionally rather than force them to adopt the government’s views,” Tedesco said in a statement. “Jack simply exercised the long-cherished American freedom to decline to use his artistic talents to promote a message with which he disagrees. The court is wrong to deny Jack his fundamental freedoms.”