October 23, 2017 at 11:11 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
ACLU, Colorado file briefs for gay couple in Masterpiece Cakeshop case

right to wed, gay news, Washington Blade

Lawyers file opening briefs for the gay couple in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. (Photo by Bigstock)

Lawyers advocating for the gay couple who insist they should be able to purchase a wedding cake from a baker under Colorado law — whether the baker has religious objections or not — fired their opening salvo before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

In the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, a pair of opening briefs was submitted by Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which argues the court should uphold lower court decisions for Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Law, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the same-sex couple in the lawsuit, Charlie Craig and David Mullins.

Both briefs argue the Supreme Court should reject the claim by Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop and says can he refuse a wedding cake to same-sex couples because the making of the cake is inherently an act of expression protected under the First Amendment.

The 70-page brief from the ACLU makes the case Phillip cannot be free to discriminate on the basis of his religious views because the Colorado non-discrimination law is generally applicable to all businesses.

“The bakery is not the first business to claim a First Amendment right to violate an anti-discrimination law because of its sincerely held religious or moral beliefs,” the brief says. “This court has never accepted that premise, and has, instead, affirmed repeatedly the government’s ability to prohibit discriminatory conduct over the freedom of expression, association, and religion objections of entities ranging from law firms, and labor unions; to private schools, and universities; to membership organizations open to the public; to restaurants, and newspapers. Retail bakeries should fare no differently.”

The brief also argues a ruling in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop would lead to a slippery-slope of discrimination other than against same-sex couples and in capacities other than wedding cakes.

“If the First Amendment bars a state from applying an anti-discrimination law to the sale of wedding cakes because they involve artistry, then bakeries could refuse to provide cakes for an interracial or interfaith couple’s wedding, a Jewish boy’s bar mitzvah, an African-American child’s birthday, or a woman’s business school graduation
party,” the brief says.

Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU of Colorado, said in a statement a ruling in upholding Colorado’s non-discrimination law is essential.

“As a nation and as a state, we decided decades ago that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms,” Silverstein said. “A ruling allowing discrimination in this case would have implications far beyond LGBT people. It would put in jeopardy longstanding protections against discrimination here in Colorado and across the country.”

The other 75-page brief filed by Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which determined Phillips violated the state law, asserts state laws like Colorado’s have prohibited discrimination in the United States for more than 150 years.

“Phillips demands respect for his religious beliefs, and that respect is secured by the Constitution,” the brief says. “But under that same Constitution, a religious belief is no justification for a State — or a business open to the general public — to treat a class of people as inferior simply because of who they are.”

Oral arguments will be held in the case on Dec. 5.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

9 Comments
  • “But under that same Constitution, a religious belief is no justification for a State — or a business open to the general public — to treat a class of people as inferior simply because of who they are.”

    Except who they are isn’t really who they are. That would be a lie. Homosexuality is not an immutable trait, it is a sexual behavior. The truth is a wedding ceremony is a religious event that celebrates the first divine law of Christianity. Because of this fact, the couple who targeted the baker seeks to discriminate against him because of his religious beliefs. If the courts stick to the truth, the baker will prevail. If the court has been deceived by all the homosexual falsehoods that even go so far as to say their struggles are the same as the black civil rights movement, or denying to bake a cake is the same as murder (a fireman’s refusal to remove a black person from a burning building), then the SCOTUS justices would have to be impeached because they would have demonstrated their inability to seek the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    • Religion isn’t an immutable trait. It’s a choice! You can choose not to have one! No a wedding is a civil event that does not require religion to make it legal! The state issues the marriage license, enforces the rights of the married couple and issues a divorce! Religion is not involved with any of that!

      Their is no hierarchy of oppression by which the black civil rights movement is the only legitimate kind of civil rights movement!

      Invoking faith as an excuse to legitimize discrimination for any reason against a gay couple or gay person cannot stand in the secular! That’s a slippery slope which has no end! Why can’t you deny people condoms if not married or other form of birth control if we let you get away with that? Then it’s denying a gay couple benefits that other couples can have for healthcare for example. Or denying employment because they are married to someone of the same gender. NO! Nip it in the bud!

      As for the truth, you can’t handle the truth! You’re like your fake POTUS, spinning lies by the minute!

    • “Religion” and “creed” are covered under the exact same law at issue. They most certainly are not “immutable” traits as people convert to different religions, become atheists or become born again all the time. TRY AGAIN.

      You wrote: “The truth is a wedding ceremony is a religious event that celebrates the first divine law of Christianity.” SO, ARE YOU TELLING US THAT NON-CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES ARE ILLEGAL OR IRRELEVANT? That a Jewish couple’s marriage has no meaning to the State or atheists getting married? BULLSHIT. Wedding ceremonies are religious to some people, and they are not remotely religious to others. WHAT YOU SAID IS NOT A FACT AT ALL. WAY TO VIOLATE A COMMANDMENT. HYPOCRITE!

      • No, what I’m telling you as it relates to the facts in Masterpiece Cake Shop vs. Colorado is that the Court must accept the fact that Jack is a Christian and the Government cannot impose one orthodoxy over another or force Jack to act or speak in a way that celebrates a belief that Jack feels causes him to sin. Marriage is religious for Christians. Genesis 2:24-25.

        • Colorado does accept the fact that Jack is a Christian and is not enforcing one orthodoxy over another. It’s anti-discrimination law is not targeted at just “Christian” businesses – it applies to ALL businesses that are open to the public (whether they are owned by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, atheists or a group of Chinese stockholders) because the goal of the law is prohibit discrimination in the public marketplace.

          The law only requires that such businesses not discriminate. If Jack has an issue with selling one item that’s on his business menu (wedding cakes), he’s free to remove them at any time and sell them to no one, which is what he’s currently doing. WHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT SAY THAT ALL CHRISTIANS ARE REQUIRED TO OPEN UP BUSINESSES THAT ARE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC AND TO MAKE AND SELL WEDDING CAKES?

          Marriage is religious for some Christians. Not all people share his beliefs or your beliefs. If he cannot reconcile this religious beliefs with the legal requirement not to discriminate – HE NEEDS TO GET OUT OF THE WEDDING BUSINESS OR RESTRUCTURE IT IN A MANNER SO IT IS NOT A “PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION” AND WILL BE EXEMPT FROM THE LAW (a “private club” or one that isn’t open to the public and finds customers on a referral basis only). PS: He’s also free to assign the task to employees of the bakery and he’s also free to subcontract the job out to a completely different bakery (businesses subcontract work out all the time for various reasons.

          The law governs CONDUCT (not speech). It doesn’t require Jack to say anything. It doesn’t prohibit him from saying anything. Colorado has told him that he’s free to discuss his religious beliefs with any customer and he’s free to post them in the store and on his website. Colorado has also informed him that he’s free to provide any disclaimer that he wants – to the effect that the provision of a baked good in accordance with the law in no way constitutes the approval of the bakery (or its owner) of the event at which the baked goods are eaten – if Jack freakishly believes that in the 20+ years of his corporation selling wedding cakes also consisted of selling his personal approval of each and every one of his customer’s wedding. The law only prohibits HIS CORPORATION from refusing to provide full and equal service to a customer solely due to the customer’s sexual orientation.

          • It would be ridiculously incompetent for you to believe that the Court has a right to compel Jack’s affirmation of an orthodoxy belief that is contrary to his own. I’m surprised this is even a case before the Supreme Court.

          • The Court isn’t compelling him to affirm any kind of orthodoxy. It’s requiring him to not discriminate against customers.

            We can agree on something, I’m surprised this is even before the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the exact same case back in 2014 involving a NM wedding photographer who refused to do a job for a lesbian couple. SCOTUS let New Mexico’s ruling AGAINST the photographer stand. See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/supreme-court-wont-review-new-mexico-gay-commitment-ceremony-photo-case/2014/04/07/f9246cb2-bc3a-11e3-9a05-c739f29ccb08_story.html?utm_term=.117459b295a3

            And, also considering that the US Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s decision 50 years ago that a business owner could use his religious beliefs as an excuse to refuse to serve customers in violation of anti-discrimination law. See Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises (1968).

            YOU DIDN’T ANSWER MY QUESTION: WHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT COMMAND CHRISTIANS LIKE JACK PHILLIPS TO OPEN UP A CORPORATION THAT’S OPEN TO THE PUBLIC AND TO MAKE AND SELL WEDDING CAKES? I’m not familiar with such a passage.

          • Marriage is in the Bible. (Genesis 2:24-25). It creates and institutes the family dynamic and male and female sexuality. I will answer your question when you answer mine: What is the authority that SCOTUS used to “redefine” marriage for everyone?

          • ANSWER MINE QUESTIONS FIRST – I ASKED FIRST: WHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT COMMAND CHRISTIANS LIKE JACK PHILLIPS TO OPEN UP A CORPORATION THAT’S OPEN TO THE PUBLIC AND TO MAKE AND SELL WEDDING CAKES?

            WHERE DOES IT SAY IN COLORADO’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW THAT COLORADO IS COMPELS PEOPLE TO ADOPT ANY KIND OF ORTHODOXY?

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