A Colorado appellate court on Thursday ruled against Lakewood, Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner, Jack Phillips, who refused to create a cake for the wedding reception of two men, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, in 2012. Among other things, the court stated that Phillips could not cite religious beliefs in his decision to deny making wedding cakes for same-sex couples.
The court decision affirms a commission’s earlier ruling, which stated that Phillips violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act when he refused to make the cake for Craig and Mullins. Craig and Mullins filed a complaint under Colorado law, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation.
Phillips, who says he is a Christian, argued that his decision was based on his religious opposition to the act of same-sex marriage, rather than sexual orientation.
But in a unanimous decision, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision of the state Commission on Human Rights, saying that a refusal to serve them constituted illegal discrimination.
The panel’s decision stated, in part, that no reasonable observer “would interpret Masterpiece’s providing a wedding cake for a same-sex couple as an endorsement of same-sex marriage, rather than a reflection of its desire to conduct business in accordance with Colorado’s public accommodations law” (via the New York Times).
The gay couple was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, told the Times, “The court squarely said that this is discrimination based on sexual orientation and it’s not to be tolerated, even if it’s motivated by faith. Religious liberty gives you the right to your beliefs but not the right to harm others.”
Jeremy Tedesco, a senior lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group based in Arizona, argued that Phillips was protecting his First Amendment rights of expression and religion. “Cake decorating is his medium for creating art and they are compelling him to engage in artistic expression that violates his beliefs,” he said. Tedesco also noted that Phillips refused to make cakes celebrating Halloween because he associates the holiday with Satan.
Lawyers for the cake shop are considering appealing the verdict to the Colorado Supreme Court.