Christian baker loses appeal in same-sex wedding cake case

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The Colorado Supreme Court will not hear the case of a Christian baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding celebration.

The decision, released April 25, upholds a prior ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals against the baker, Jack Philips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo. Philips had appealed the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s order to create cakes for same-sex weddings, reeducate his staff on discrimination policy, and file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years after he declined to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012.

Philips’ attorneys said Monday they are evaluating all legal options—including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We asked the Colorado Supreme Court to take this case to ensure that government understands that its duty is to protect the people’s freedom to follow their beliefs personally and professionally, not force them to violate those beliefs as the price of earning a living,” Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the legal group representing Philips, said in a statement.

In 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins requested Philips bake them a custom wedding cake to celebrate their Massachusetts marriage. Philips declined, citing his religious convictions, but recommended another bakery nearby. Craig and Mullins filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which eventually ruled against Philips in 2014. Philips appealed the decision, and the Colorado Court of Appeals also ruled against him in August 2015. In October he appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

ADF and Philips contend he did not discriminate based on sexual orientation but instead exercised his religious freedom by declining to use his artistic gifts to support an event that contradicts his faith.

“Jack, who has happily served people of all backgrounds for years, simply exercised the long-cherished American freedom to decline to use his artistic talents to promote a message and event with which he disagrees, and that freedom shouldn’t be placed in jeopardy for anyone,” Tedesco said. Philips also declines to make cakes celebrating Halloween or bachelor parties, and cakes containing profanity, among other things.

According to a March 2015 Marist poll, 65 percent of Americans oppose fining wedding vendors for declining to participate in same-sex ceremonies.

But LGBT advocates applauded the decision as a victory for tolerance.

“We hope today’s win will serve as a lesson for others that equality and fairness should be our guiding principles and that discrimination has no place at the table, or the bakery as the case may be,” Ria Tobacco Mar, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Craig and Mullins, said in a statement.

But Philips’ attorneys note tolerance should apply to everyone.

“Every artist must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced to express contrary views,” said ADF lead counsel Nicolle Martin. “Forcing people to promote ideas against their will is not an American concept. It undermines our constitutionally protected freedom of expression and our right to live free.”

In contrast to the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission last spring upheld the rights of three Denver bakers who refused to bake cakes for a customer requesting confections that reflected his disagreement with same-sex marriage.

— by Kiley Crossland

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