April 25, 2016 at 1:46 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Colo. high court won’t hear same-sex wedding cake lawsuit
right to wed, gay news, Washington Blade

The Colorado Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal from a bakery that declined to make a same-sex wedding cake.

The Colorado Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from a bakery found to have violated state civil rights law for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

In a list of case announcements on Monday, the Supreme Court denied the writ of certiorari filed by the Lakewood-based Masterpiece Cakeshop and owner Jack Phillips seeking to reverse a decision from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that determined the bakery violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits anti-LGBT discrimination.

Masterpiece Cakeshop filed the appeal before the Colorado Supreme Court after the Colorado Court of Appeals in August affirmed the determination of Colorado Civil Rights Commission, saying state law prohibits the bakery “from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation.”

The bakery and its owner challenged the commission’s decision on the basis that it has right under protections of freedom of religion under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to refuse a wedding cake to a same-sex couple.

According to the case announcements, the decision to refuse the appeal was made en banc with other decisions announced Monday. Justice Allison Eid, appointed by Democratic Gov. Bill Owens, didn’t participate in the decision.

Chief Justice Nancy Rice and Justice Nathan Coats, appointed by Democrats, indicated on the announcement they would have accepted the case to determine whether Colorado law requires Phillips to create an artistic expression that violates his religious conscience; whether applying the law to force him to create artistic expression violates free speech rights under the federal and state constitutions; and whether applying to force him to create artistic expression violates free exercise rights under the federal and state constitutions.

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 be 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.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered the bakery to (1) take 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) file quarterly compliance reports for two years describing the remedial measures and document all patrons denied service and the reasons for the denial. No other punishment, such as fines, were included as part of the order.

The case and others like it around the country was fodder for conservatives arguing laws against anti-LGBT discrimination impair religious freedom. Republican presidential candidates like Ted Cruz have drawn attention to these incidents to galvanize support for their campaigns.

Ria Tabacco Mar, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project who argued the case on behalf of the same-sex couple, hailed the Colorado high court for refusing to hear the appeal.

“The highest court in Colorado today affirmed that no one should be turned away from a public-facing business because of who they are or who they love,” Mar said. “We all have a right to our personal beliefs, but we do not have a right to impose those beliefs on others and harm them. 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.”

Nicole Martin, an attorney with the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom representing Masterpiece Cakeshop, said the decision is disappointing.

“Obviously, we are disappointed with the decision and we’re weighing all legal options rights now,” Martin said.

The refusal to hear the case may not be the last word on the litigation. Martin said there are options, including letting the decision stand, seeking relief from the U.S. Supreme Court in the form of petition for certiorari or making a motion for reconsideration before the Colorado Supreme Court.

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

8 Comments
  • Now do you really expect social conservatives to give up without exhausting the appeals process?

  • The collective nation is tired of gays bullying people. Someone doesn’t want to bake you a cake, FINE, go to another bakery. I wouldn’t want someone to bake me a cake that didn’t want to because I’d worry they’d not do a good job. But these gays are pushing the issue? How petty. Boo hoo, someone doesn’t agree with your lifestyle choice, move on.

    • Gays have been bullied by conservatives for many decades so you shouldn’t whine like a victim now! People in glass houses…..!

      So it’s time you get over it and move on!

  • You mean like the gays do?

  • And that’s why our country will fail. Because we have people with totally different outlooks on life making decisions for people who don’t agree with them — and sooner or later people are going to grab guns and shoot politicians — and that is why Hillary is so anti-gun, so she can disarm the people and then abuse them and we have no recourse.

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