August 13, 2015 at 5:30 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Court rules against Colo. bakery in wedding cake lawsuit

right to wed, gay news, Washington Blade

A court ruled a Colorado bakery’s refusal to prepare a same-sex wedding cake was unlawful.

Amid controversy over whether bakeries should be able to deny wedding cakes for same-sex weddings based on religious objections, a Colorado court on Thursday determined such action is illegal in the state under its civil rights law.

In a 64-page decision, a three-judge panel on the Colorado Court of Appeals found the Lakewood-based Masterpiece Cakeshop violated the 2014 Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

“Masterpiece remains free to continue espousing its religious beliefs, including its opposition to same-sex marriage,” the decision says. “However, if it wishes to operate as a public accommodation and conduct business within the State of Colorado, CADA prohibits it from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation.”

In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a same-sex couple, asked Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to design and produce a wedding cake for their same-sex wedding in Massachusetts. Phillips refused based on his religious beliefs, but said he would happy to make and sell them other baked goods.

In 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mullins and Craig, alleging the bakery discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. In December 2013, an administrative judge ruled the bakery had illegally discriminated against the couple — a decision affirmed by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Masterpiece Cakeshop appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, saying it has right under protections of freedom of religion under the First Amendment to refuse a wedding cake to the couple.

The decision, written by Judge Daniel Taubman, dismisses each of the arguments raised by the bakery in the lawsuit. Among them was the idea the bakery wasn’t discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation by denying the couple a wedding cake because the company was willing to sell the two other goods.

“We conclude that the act of same-sex marriage is closely correlated to Craig’s and Mullins’ sexual orientation, and therefore, the ALJ did not err when he found that Masterpiece’s refusal to create a wedding cake for Craig and Mullins was ‘because of’ their sexual orientation, in violation of CADA,” the decision says.

The court upholds the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s order for the bakery, which is (1) taking remedial measures to ensure compliance with the state’s civil rights law, including comprehensive staff training and alteration to the company’s policies; and (2) filing quarterly compliance reports for two years describing the remedial measures as well as documenting all patrons who are denied service and the reasons for the denial. No other punishment, such as fines, were included as part of the order.

Ria Mar, who argued the case on behalf of the staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project, hailed the decision.

“Today is a proud day for equality and for upholding the law. In America, no one should be turned away from a shop or restaurant because of who they are or who they love,” Mar said. “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. Today we can celebrate this big win.”

It should be noted Charlie Craig and David Mullins sought to obtain a wedding cake from the bakery in 2012, which took place before the legalization of same-sex marriage in Colorado in 2014. Although the couple planned to legally wed in Massachusetts, they could have easily requested the cake for non-binding ceremony in their home state.

Christopher Stoll, senior staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, also called the decision a win in favor of non-discrimination for gay people. NCLR filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the same-sex couple in the case.

“It is wrong for public businesses to refuse service to customers because of who they are,” Stoll said. “As the court’s decision today recognizes, businesses’ decisions to turn away customers based on irrelevant factors like race, sex, or sexual orientation have a negative effect on the economy and lead to unacceptable economic and social division.”

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

3 Comments
  • Well, you know religious conservatives will now use this decision to push their political agenda including passing religious exemption laws.
    Discrimination is wrong but why give your money to a business that clearly is against your equality? Chances are the bakery would have donated your money to religious organizations opposed to your rights. I would rather give my money to people who support my rights and dignity and give me the respect all human beings deserve.

    I’d also rather see these people put signs up that they don’t want to hire or cater to gay people. Why? Because I know not to contribute to the success of that business and not to seek employment there either. I want to work in an inviting respectful environment free from hatred. I want to spend my money at similar places. I’d rather see a business who contributes money to GLBT organizations and actively pursues them thrive than one who does the opposite.

    We shouldn’t be rewarding anyone that works against our best interest. We may feel indignant over their treatment but I really don’t want to associate with people who make me feel that way.

  • In Washington DC it started last week with the introduction of the First Amendment Defence Act by Sen. Mike Lee R Utah. Everyone should be making lots of noise over this one. It is the equivalent of Indiana’s RFRA law on staroid. It was first brought to my attention by a religious conservative who writes for a local paper in a small township in Michigan. The name of the paper is the Source and Advisor newspaper, her name is Julie Szydlowski. She has a bible attached to her brain and nothing else matters. Not the law, not the truth and most of all the LGBT community. My wish of all time is for anyone with a LGBT connection to come down hard on her. Make her cry and give up writing for ever. I keep a close eye on her blog in that paper. Anyone input would be refreshing!!!!!!! PLEASE MAKE MY WISH COME TRUE.

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