March 5, 2019 at 4:22 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
New agreement ends litigation against Masterpiece Cakeshop
A new agreement will end litigation against Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Masterpiece Cakeshop — famed for its case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court after its owner refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple — has reached a new agreement with the State of Colorado to end subsequent litigation against him.

As part of the new agreement, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission will withdraw its administrative action against owner Jack Phillips. The commission found probable cause the bakery violated state law by refusing to make a cake celebrating a gender transition for a transgender person’s birthday.

In turn, Phillips will voluntarily dismiss his federal court case against Colorado, which cited ongoing harassment from the state in the aftermath of the narrow ruling in his favor by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat, said in a statement the decision is beneficial for all parties involved.

“After careful consideration of the facts, both sides agreed it was not in anyone’s best interest to move forward with these cases,” Weiser said. “The larger constitutional issues might well be decided down the road, but these cases will not be the vehicle for resolving them. Equal justice for all will continue to be a core value that we will uphold as we enforce our state’s and nation’s civil rights laws.”

Last year, the Supreme Court stopped short of asserting a First Amendment right for Phillips to refuse service to a same-sex couple based on freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but ruled in his favor based on the facts of the case, finding anti-religion bias on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

On the day the Supreme Court decision was handed down, an attorney asked Phillips to create a cake with pink on the inside and blue on the outside to celebrate a gender transition from male to female. Phillips declined the request on religious grounds. 

Weeks later, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission declared it had found probable cause Colorado law requires Phillips to create the requested gender-transition cake. In turn, Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT legal group, filed the federal lawsuit against Colorado, citing ongoing harassment of Phillips.

Kristen Waggoner,  who argued the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before the Supreme Court as senior Vice President of the U.S. legal division of Alliance Defending Freeedom, said in a statement the agreement is a victory for Phillips.

“The state of Colorado is dismissing its case against Jack, stopping its six and a half years of hostility toward him for his beliefs,” Waggoner said. “Jack’s victory is great news for everyone. Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a diverse society like ours. They enable us to peacefully coexist with each another. But the state’s demonstrated and ongoing hostility toward Jack because of his beliefs is undeniable.”

Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, said in a statement Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act remains in effect despite the agreement.

“Despite the mutual agreement between the State of Colorado and Masterpiece Cakeshop, the law is still the law,” Ramos said. “No matter who you are, who you love, or what you believe, Coloradans across our state – including LGBTQ Coloradans and their families – are still protected under Colorado law from discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations. 

According to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, each side will bear their own costs and attorneys’ fees and the agreement doesn’t affect the ability of Autumn Scardina, the transgender complainant in the state administrative case, to pursue a claim on her own. 


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

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