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Masterpiece Cakeshop case is ‘about freedom’

The gay couple in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case says their case is about “freedom.” (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The gay couple in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case on Tuesday said it is about equality.

“This is about freedom, freedom for LGBT people to live full lives in public,” David Mullins told LGBT rights advocates who were gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mullins and his husband, Charlie Craig, spoke to the activists shortly after the justices heard oral arguments in the case.

Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo, maintains the First Amendment allows him to refuse to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples because of his religious beliefs. Phillips and his lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT legal group the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group, reiterated this point when they spoke with reporters after the oral arguments ended.

Mullins and Craig insist Phillips discriminated against them because of their sexual orientation.

“We want everyone to be free and equal,” Mullins told the activists after the oral arguments ended. “All deserve fair and equal treatment and that’s why we’re here today.”

Case is ‘not about the cake’

Hundreds of people were gathered outside the Supreme Court during the oral arguments.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) — who represents Denver and several of its suburbs — said the case is “not about the cake,” but rather “discrimination.” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), New York Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) are among the dozens of other LGBT rights supporters and advocates who spoke in front of the Supreme Court.

“The case that the Supreme Court will hear this morning is about one thing: Discrimination, plain and simple,” said Ian Thompson of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Craig and Mullins. “A ruling for Masterpiece Cakeshop would turn our constitution’s promise of equal treatment under the law on its head. It would have dangerous implications that go far beyond LGBT people.”

Sheila Alexander-Reid, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, said advocates “must continue to fight against attempts to restrict the rights of Americans and against any policy that enshrines discrimination into law.” Transgender Law Center Deputy Director Isa Noyola stressed a ruling in support of Phillips will have a “devastating impact” on transgender and gender non-conforming people of color.

“This case has implications for every single one of the communities that are in our coalition,” added Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights who worked at the Justice Department during the Obama administration. “This case is fundamentally about who we are as a country and what we deserve to have as an America that respects everyone’s rights and everyone’s ideals.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) and Liberty Counsel Director of Public Policy Jonathan Alexandre are among those who spoke in support of Phillips outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This Supreme Court is running this country,” said U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) after he sharply criticized the Supreme Court for ruling in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples in the Obergefell case.

The Iowa Republican also pointed out the Defense of Marriage Act, which President Clinton signed in 1996. The Supreme Court in 2013 ruled the section of DOMA that defined marriage as between a man and a woman in federal law was unconstitutional.

“We need to get them back to the constitution itself,” said King, referring to the justices.