June 5, 2018 at 9:19 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
White House hails Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling as religious liberty win

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders hailed the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling as
a win for religious freedom. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders hailed Tuesday as a win for religious freedom the narrow ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to serve a custom-made wedding cake to a same-sex couple.

“When it comes to the bakers, we were pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision,” Sanders said. “The First Amendment prohibits government discriminating on the basis of religious beliefs, and the Supreme Court rightly concluded that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to show tolerance and respect for his religious beliefs.”

Sanders also alluded to support in the lawsuit for Masterpiece Cakeshop by the Trump administration. The U.S. Justice Department submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips and U.S. Solicitor General Neil Francisco argued before the Supreme Court on his behalf.

“In this case and others, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously defend the free speech and religious freedom First Amendment rights,” Sanders said.

The Supreme Court vacated the decision by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission against Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and Dave Mullin in 2012 out of religious objections, on the basis of comments a commissioner made in hearing the case perceived as anti-religion.

Although the Supreme Court handed Phillips a narrow win that applies only to this one incident and doesn’t set up a sweeping rule enabling anti-LGBT discrimination, anti-LGBT groups have hailed the decision as a major win for religious freedom. Pro-LGBT groups have had mixed reactions, but pointed to language in the decision stressing the importance of non-discrimination laws.

Sanders made the remarks after staying silent on the day of the ruling in the context of a question posed to her from NBC News’ Peter Alexander on why the Trump administration would support the freedom of expression of the Colorado baker, but not athletes speaking out against racism by taking a knee during the National Anthem.

Alexander asked the question after President Trump revoked an invite from the Philadelphia Eagles to the White House after the waved on plans to attend. Trump cited his opposition to football players taking a knee during the anthem in his announcement rescinding the invite.

When Sanders responded with the straightforward answer about support for the Supreme Court ruling, Alexanders pressed her by repeated the question. Sanders, however, drew a distinction between the two issues.

“The president doesn’t think that this is an issue simply of free speech,” Sanders said. “He thinks it’s about respecting the men and women of our military. It’s about respecting our National Anthem. And it’s about standing out of pride for that.”

That prompted Alexander to ask if the president would “deal with the underlying issue of police-involved shootings” by holding a roundtable on the issue. Sanders responded by saying she’d ask Trump about the issue and tried to move to another reporter.

But Alexander wouldn’t let up and asked Sanders if the president hasn’t discussed the issue or see as an opportunity to unify the country.

“Certainly, we look at ways every single day to unify our country,” Sanders said. “The President has worked actively and tirelessly to be the President of all Americans. I think you can see that reflected in the policies that he’s put forth.”

Sanders cited economic growth during the Trump administration, alluding to record-low unemployment for black Americans, as evidence of the president’s commitment.

“And one of the greatest equalizers that we can have is to provide a level playing field, and the President has worked increasingly hard to make sure that that happens,” Sanders said.

Watch the video here via NBC News:

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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