November 1, 2017 at 2:42 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
House Dems take stand against anti-gay baker before Supreme Court

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) leads House Democrats in a brief before the Supreme Court case. (Washington Blade photo by Tom Hausman)

As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs a challenge to Colorado’s non-discrimination law filed by a Christian baker who refuses to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, House Democrats gathered outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to promote a bicameral friend-of-the-court brief against the anti-gay baker.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who’s gay and a co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, said at the news conference the refusal of service the Colorado baker proposes is akin to the kind of discrimination outlawed in other civil rights laws.

“If you are selling pizza, if you are renting hotels rooms, you do not get to say you’re not going to get served because you are African-American, or because you are Jewish, or because you are a woman,” Maloney said. “And it is not an answer to say that it is expressive conduct, that it is speech. It is not an answer to say that is a sincerely held religious belief if you are engaged in commercial activity. That’s simple.”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who’s also gay and a co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, said a ruling in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop would be the first step in a slippery slope toward more discrimination.

“This amicus brief that were filing today is not about merely affirming one couple’s right to buy cake,” Takano said. “What it seems to affirm is every person’s right to be treated with dignity and respect in America. A court ruling in favor of the cakeshop would unleash a flood of discrimination from those who want to insult and exclude any group of vulnerable people.”

Also speaking at the news conference was House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who said a ruling for the baker would restore America to the dark days of discrimination.

“We’re better than exclusion, we’re better than hate, we’re better than prejudice,” Hoyer said. “We respect each and every one of fellow citizens. Let us pray that the Supreme Court redeems once again the promise of America.”

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case as a result of a petition filed by Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop who refused to make a wedding cake in 2012 for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a Colorado couple. Bucking the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodations, Phillips asserts the baking of wedding cakes is inherently an act of expression protected under the First Amendment.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of Craig and Mullins. An administrative judge ruled in favor of the same-sex couple — a decision the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld in 2015. Although the Colorado Supreme Court declined to review these decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court nonetheless agreed to take the case this year.

The 37-page brief — signed by 175 House members and 36 U.S. senators — makes the case that members of Congress are well-positioned to advise the court on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case because the ruling could impact federal civil rights laws.

“The exemption petitioners seek — allowing discrimination by businesses that claim to engage in expressive conduct — is unworkable,” the brief says. “If Mr. Phillips chooses to provide goods or services to the public, then public accommodations laws demand he do so without discriminating against certain historically marginalized classes. Though Mr. Phillips may abide by certain tenets of his own faith, those tenets cannot be ‘superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.'”

The lead House member on the brief was Maloney and the lead U.S. senator was Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the only out lesbian in Congress. A total of 211 congressional Democrats signed the brief — a number that dwarfs the 86 congressional Republicans who signed the brief led by Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) in favor of the Colorado baker.

Also present at the news conference was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said the brief takes a stand against anti-LGBT discrimination, but is also much broader.

“The Masterpiece Cakeshop case touches the lives, of course, of LGBT people but it also touches the lives of all Americans,” Pelosi said. “The case is about the fundamental right for all groups to be free from discrimination.  With this brief, we are fighting that our nation lives up to its ideals of equality and justice for all.”

Also speaking at the news conference was Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.); Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.), chair of the Transgender Equality Task Force; and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.).

Krishnamoorthi, a Hindu and the first Indian-American to enter Congress, said he stands in solidarity with LGBT people as a religious, ethnic and racial minority.

“The promise of the United States is that it doesn’t matter where you came from, how you dress, how you pray, whom you love or how many letters there are in your name,” Krishnamoorthi said. “I have 18 in mine. All that matters is that you’re an American, and all Americans deserve equal protection under the law and all must have it.”

Joining lawmakers at the news conference in promoting the brief were Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign; Ian Thompson, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union; and Harper Jean Tobin, policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Tobin compared the discrimination Craig and Mullins faced at Masterpiece Cakeshop to the kind of  discrimination she said transgender people face everyday.

“This is the kind of discrimination that our state and federal civil rights laws are meant to protect Americans from in their daily life,” Tobin said. “The Supreme Court in this case is being asked to issue a license to discriminate, to turn our cherished civil rights laws into something more like civil rights suggestions.”

Under questioning from reporters, Maloney, who married his same-sex spouse in 2014 in New York, became visibly angry the Supreme Court would even entertain the idea a bakery would have a First Amendment right to refuse service to same-sex couples.

“The court would have not taken this case if it was a Jewish couple guaranteed,” Maloney said. “The court would’nt be hearing this case if it was a case of race-based discrimination dressed up as religion. The only reason is that people believe it’s still acceptable at some level, in some way to discriminate against LGBT people. The legal principle is exactly the same.”

A total of 35 friend-of-the-court briefs were filed before the Supreme Court this week in favor of the Colorado law and the same-sex couple.

Another brief, signed by nearly 1,300 clergy members, asserts religious views “do not provide a license to disregard neutral civil rights laws.” The Human Rights Campaign filed a “chefs for equality” brief signed by more than 240 chefs, bakers and restaurateurs opposing a decision against the same-sex couple.

Oral arguments in the case are set for 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

62 Comments
  • As usual, it’s the Democrats standing up for GLBT rights while the Republicans are against them! The Trump administration has proven itself to be an enemy of GLBT people and can NEVER be trusted! Trump is a disaster!

    • Trump represents the wishes of those that voted and placed him in office. I know that you’re going to say that the votes were rigged, Russia caused it all to happen so Trump got the job, but just read and listen at other news sources other than those created by Trump haters and extremely liberal folks. There is always a far left and a far right, but in all cases there is a middle. Blustering up and saying someone is a disaster is not going to help your cause. No one is saying GLBT has no rights. The majority should be considered instead of just an extremely small portion of the population. Stop the hate and work for a solution if it means that much to you. Removing the rights of 300 plus million will also remove many of the rights of those trying to get what they want.

      • Blow out your rear! Tricky trump represents the result of voter apathy and assuming such an idiot couldn’t be put in office. The electoral college got him in not the popular vote so it’s not the will of the people! Even trump said it was rigged!

        We will surely look out for our own best interest because the likes of you won’t! Listening to news sources that tell us what you want to hear about the fake potus is not an objective news source! I can think for myself and know trump is a pathological liar, a fraud and a chronic flip flipper! He can never be trusted as he’s only interested in what is good for Donald Trump!

        We won’t stand by idly as tricky trump tries to screw over America with his phony promises and dangerous agenda! We also won’t be complacent next elections and go out and vote! Dirty Koch and Robert Mercer money can’t stop us!

        • Has the popular ever put anyone in office? Trum won the popular vote in more state than Clintion. Clintion had 4million more votes than Trump in CA. One state should not dictate the presidential election..

          • No more than your religion should dictate over the lives of glbt Americans! We are governed by secular laws not religious ones! We aren’t the Vatican!

          • No religion is dictating anyone lives. You have the right to marry! But, you think otherwise, please explain? However, it seems secular laws are dictating religious American live which is against the 1st amendment!

          • Religion led to sodomy laws used for centuries to persecute gay people! So you do try and control other prople’s Lives!

            We can marry but Kim Davies wouldn’t do her job and issue licenses to gay couples! What else can you then deny couples on the pretext of faith? Healthcare coverage to a gay spouse? A job or promotion because of a gay spouse? Housing? Credit? Discounts? The abuse can be endless and gay couples shouldn’t have to navigate mindfields while hetero couples do not! What offends your faith is way too subjective!

          • Secular laws control our lives as well… Man who controls the government, not religion, enacted those laws. Does the bible say to write sodomy laws into governmental laws?

            Kim Davis would not sign or contribute to that behavior. There is a difference. Kentucky needed to change their laws, which they did later, to not require the clerk’s signature.

            lol Yes health care coverage to a gay spouse just like they deny abortion services. A gay spouse is similuar to a hetero spouse.

            But, not for housing, Credit, or discounts because that does not involve mimic marriage. Any two people, regardless of sexuality, can get a house together, credit or discounts. Those things does not necessary mean a those two people are in a relationship

          • If you acknowledge that Secular laws control our lives, then your faith based on religion would not trump them! But sodomy laws were enacted based on religious leaders demanding it of those that governed. Like the clergy convinced Henry VIII in England to criminalize sodomy and make it a capital offense!

            Kim Davies would not be contributing to “behavior” she would be doing her job as was prescribed by law! Kentucky may have changed it’s laws but has all states?

            You laugh on healthcare coverage, but I can see someone like you saying you shouldn’t have to provide healthcare coverage to a gay person’s spouse based on it violating your faith since you would be recognizing the marriage by doing so.

            Yes, for housing because you have to sign the lease don’t you or provide your income as a couple jointly to qualify for a loan? If you knew it was for a gay couple should you be able to deny them because you don’t agree with their marriage?

          • lol Religious liberity is a secular law! Is it not in the Constitutio ?

          • You’re babbling roger. Try and make some sense!

          • Pesky problem: Thomas Jefferson said, “We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

            God-given rights precede man’s law; hence, the primacy of the Bill of Rights over government action.

            On what basis is your law and morality?

            “When there is no god, everything is permissible.”

            –Dost.

          • Thomas Jefferson while speaking on liberty also kept slaves and while preaching about religion was have sexual relations with sally Hemings and making illegitimate children! Where was his morality there?

        • Hillary Clinton and her goons rigged the Democratic primaries against Bernie Sanders.

          Even Donna Brazile and Elizabeth Warren are calling out the sleazy DNC on its bogus primary system!

          You could care less because you are amoral.

          • Elizabeth warren said trump is trying to look for a distraction from his campaign ties to Russia! Won’t work!

            Donna Brazil said the fake potus misquoted her but if Bernie had gotten the nomination maybe your disaster would be whining how his loss was rigged! You’re such a blatant hack!

          • No….Elizabeth Warren explicitly stated the 2016 Democratic primary was “RIGGED”on PBS Newshour last night. So did Donna Brazile and Tulsi Gabbard yesterday!

            YOU are the one trying to distract right now!

          • Rigged to favor Hillary not Bernie. So what? That wasn’t illegal.

            Still will never justify Russian collusion by the trump campaign! Trump’s admistration is tainted and you can’t whitewash it or clean the stain! It will haunt trump to defeat!

          • I agree, so what?

            Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, its constituencies care a lot.
            On 10/24, at its annual convention, the AFL-CIO has decided to work with progressives to create a new political party that is pro-labor and against systemic political corruption.

            Looks like the Democratic Party is disintegrating before our very eyes…..so what?

          • Hardly! Bernie was a spoiler like Ralph Nader. Democrats and liberals are coming together against trump! Independents are coming our way too!

            Trump’s own stupidity and volatile and reckless behavior alienates him even with some in his party like Crocker and flake! Voters are getting fed up with trump and many believe trump had something to do with Russian meddling! Doubt is damaging!

            Trump is going down like miss Milo!

          • How can Bernie be a spoiler when the entire process is spoiled and corrupt?

            The Clintons rigged the entire process in 2016! Even key Democrats are now saying it!

            Corker and Flake? Last time I looked, they were retiring and Trump is still standing!

          • Again so what? That will never justify or mitigate the trump administrations Russian corruption! They committed a crime while the clintons did’t!

            Yes the entire process is rigged by the electoral college which gave trump the win against the wishes of the majority voters!

    • Do religious individuals have rights?

      • You have rights obviously but they don’t trump glbt rights! In the secular!

        If it’s a religious institution then that’s different than the secular! Otherwise you have a slippery slope whereby you can use the excuse of faith against a glbt person for any reason not just marriage recognition!

  • Look I am don’t have a religion cuz I don’t want to join an organized religion who decides to discriminate against others. I’m singing a I’m dealing with people with different religions different culture men and women I haven’t been with anybody who’s gay or not that is still do my best to care for them because we all should have a treat people with respect and dignity and not to our religious Faith against doing what’s right to protect others. I’m going to treat people with respect I know I said it before but I am still going to treat people with respect. I know what these people went through I’m a woman I also have a disability and I would like to be treated with a lot of respect I will judge people because I believe humans have every right to have equal rights you may not agree with the day transformation or any of that but does not give you a right to judge or force your beliefs on others. When you own a business or do anything with business you going to know you’re going to deal with people with different culture different Religion different sexual orientation you need to treat these people with respect then you will be treat with respect.

    • Is everyone going to heaven? No! According to your discrimination logic, if religion rejects anyone it is discrimination..

      • religion used to reject people in the secular sphere is discrimination!

        • lol All discrimination is not illegal. Dont the government allow certain forms of male, female
          age, and race discrimination? Is it not discrimination to only allow ages 55 and up to live in a community? The government allows the boys scout to only admit males? So it sounds like you want secular laws to prohibit the free exercise of religion in the public square..

          Dont God reject certain people due to their behavior?

          • Those forms of discrimination can be challenged in court! If certain forms of discrimination are acceptable then limitations to faith are too like child or animal sacrifice are prohibited! Religion had been restricted in scope legally before!

          • Spoken by someone who most probably is a marxist! We know what YOUR end game is iwith regards to religion!

            Go back under your rock!

          • Spoken like a typical theocrat who thinks religion cannot be challenged or questioned! People fled the old world to avoid religious injustice only to turn around and impose it on others here!

            Your an idiot siding with roger Nelson who would have the law say he can discriminate against you and you spouse based on faith simply because you are gay! If he had his way you couldn’t legally marry stupid and we would have sodomy laws used against you! You’re too pathetic to live!

          • People have a right to their religious beliefs. You make a lot of speculations about things. The reality is that I can marry and it’s my legal right. Maybe not in all churches and definitely not in homophobic mosques….but thats just THEIR right to pursue liberty as they see fit.

          • Speculation my sweet @$s!!you are simply an idiot in denial. It’s not about beliefs restricted to a church it’s about imposing those beliefs into the secular sphere to deny glbt the right to marry or recognize those rights! Since i’ve Lived through this many times I know quite well what they are trying to do! It wouldn’t be limited to marriage rights either it would be all rights!

            You assume because you can legally marry now that right can never be challenged or overturned in the name of religious liberty! You are so naive and stupid it’s pathetic! At the very least it could be so severely undermined that it renders it almost to symbolism! With no practical legal rights!

          • Lol God also forbids sacrifices!

          • Well, if i’m A born again Aztec, I would say my god expects sacrifice. Not allowing that prevents me from practicing my faith.

            In ancient Israel they made animal sacrifice…burnt offerings.

          • But, you are not an Aztexc!

          • How do you know what I am? And if I wanted to practice the Aztec religion by choice like you christanity shouldn’t my faith and it’s choices be respected, too?

          • We descend into the ridiculous.

        • We are a secular that carves out exemptions to not prohibit the free exercise of religion.. And no the bible does not condone racism. It does not talk about the color of one’s skin.

          • The Bible tells slaves to obey their masters doesn’t?

            Can you sacrifice animals like they did in the Bible? Some religions believe in human sacrifice. Yet that belief won’t trump murder laws. There are limits!

          • The bible also tells the master to treat your slave how you would want to be treated, correct? He also said to treat them as extended family.

            The Hebrew term for slave, eved, is a direct derivation from the Hebrew verb la’avöd (“to work”), thus, the slave in Jewish law is really only a worker or servant

            http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/slavery-in-judaism

            I see you know nothing about the bible! God forbid animal or human sacrifices!

          • Since all you ever selectively quote us is Levticus and Romans, why would we?

          • And, yet, the same Bible influenced Western thought such as Wilberforce and the American abolitionists to outlaw slavery.

            I recommend that you understand what you criticize. Such random comments would not last a snowflake second in a Christian theology class.

          • The Bible also influenced the inquisition, the crusades, witch trials, murder, mutilation and imprisonment of gays. It condoned African slavery with papal sanction as they were considered not to have souls. Let’s not forget the conquest and destruction of the AZTEC and Inca civilizations!

        • A government that compels action against one’s conscience is also at the heart of this case.

          In the articles I have read (not random readers’ comments) Mr. Phillips is a kind man to every customer including gays. He does not bake custom cakes for gay weddings, Halloween events, lewd bachelor parties, etc..

          He is not the “bigot” that some on this comment thread portray.

          • Do you even know what bigotry is? Reading articles about some doesn’t mean anything. I read hitler had laws that protected animals against cruelty. So that makes him a kind heart?

            The thin red line between religion and the secular cannot be blurred. We can give deferrence to it at religious institutions but in return we need deference innthe secular otherwise there is no end to the exemptions you have based on the faith card.

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  • This is pretty open and shut. The SC wont carve out an “artistic” expression on this guy’s C level cakes. Seriously though-anything could then be an artistic expression-SUBWAY has sandwich “artists”!! Can they refuse my tuna sandwich?? Just serve gays or get fined you kooks!!

    • This is nothing more than a set up hit job on Christians. Punishing Christians and trying to get them fined on purpose. Despicable… “If we’re going to insist that a Christian’s right to believe is subordinate to all other rights, then it’s not a right! Somebody! Is always! Going to be offended!”

    • Is about making a custom wedding cake for a form of marriage that the baker’s religious teachings say is ungodly.

      This is not about a baker refusing to offer a regular old cake.

      Note Justice Kennedy’s comment that the state has not been tolerant towards the Christian baker.

      Perhaps this is really about our intolerance of a religious minority?

  • You just want to punish people who disagree with you. You want to have rights but deny rights to others. Homosexuality is a sin in Christianity, and to bake a wedding cake for gays is engaging in celebration with the customers who want the cake. It would be helping them celebrate, and it goes against freedom of conscience.

    The only ones being discriminated against here are Christians who have been targeted because you all KNOW they can’t accept your sin and will be forced to refuse you. As Jesus said in the beginning God created them male and female…they were to marry and become one flesh. How can a Christian celebrate something against the natural order?

    “If we’re going to insist that a Christian’s right to believe is subordinate to all other rights, then it’s not a right! Somebody! Is always! Going to be offended!”

    • You’ve been punishing gays for centuries through execution, prison, shaming and ostracizing! So stop whining about being a victim. It’s always about you! The secular is a level playing field!

      Spare me the sanctimony! People like you hold the Bible in one hand and vote for a child molestor like Roy Moore or womanizer like the fake POTUS to push an agenda and out the window goes your morality!!

  • What is missing in the article is not that Mr. Phillips refused to give a cake to the gay couple but that, because of his conscience, he refused to make a custom wedding cake.

    His refusal came at a time when the State of Colorado would not issue wedding licences to homosexual couples.

    Also missing in the article is any balance particularly the issue of the government compelling an individual to go against his religion.

    I recognize that many gays and others are against discrimination but do you recognize the chilling implications of government imposed tolerance. And that is why we have a Bill of Rights.

  • Where exactly did Jesus speak about “marriage”? Where exactly did he speak against glbt?

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