U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had no comment Thursday on the pending Masterpiece Cakeshop lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court in which a baker is seeking a First Amendment right to deny wedding cakes to same-sex couples.
In response to a question from the Washington Blade on the litigation, Ryan was seemingly unaware of the lawsuit. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Tuesday.
“I haven’t given any thought to it,” Ryan said. “I’ve got nothing for you.”
Other congressional Republicans are aware of the case. A group of 86 congressional Republicans — led by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — signed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of the Colorado baker.
The petitioner in the case, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, argues that making a wedding cake is inherently an artistic act of expression protected under the First Amendment, therefore he should be able to deny wedding cakes out of religious objections to same-sex couples like Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who sought to buy a cake for their wedding in 2012.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission determined Phillips’ denial of service to the couple amounted to unlawful anti-gay discrimination under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. Although state courts have affirmed that ruling. the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case earlier this year.
Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), slammed Ryan for his professed lack of knowledge of the litigation.
“The Masterpiece case is a clear-cut question of whether America is a nation that respects the promise of equal rights for all,” Hammill said. “It is beyond belief that Speaker Ryan does not think that this is worth giving ‘any thought to.’”
Pelosi was among the 211 congressional Democrats who signed another friend-of-the-court brief led by gays Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) urging the Supreme Court to uphold the Colorado law against the First Amendment challenge.
Stephen Peters, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said Ryan’s apparent lack of knowledge of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is “disturbing.”
“The Supreme Courts’ decision in the Masterpiece case could greatly impact the lives of not only LGBTQ people, but also people of color and other marginalized communities,” Peters said. “We decided a long time ago as a nation that businesses that are open to the public can decide what they serve, but not who they serve. The fact that Speaker Ryan seems to be unaware of the potentially sweeping, damaging consequences of this case is disturbing.”
The Blade has placed a request seeking comment with the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending Phillips, on whether the legal organization is OK with Ryan having no comment on the case.