After that decision, Phillips thought he was “vindicated,” saying, “I hoped that I could return to being just a cake artist.”
But another case was pending.
In June 2017 lawyer Autumn Scardina ordered a cake to celebrate the anniversary of a “gender transition,” pink on the inside and blue on the outside, and Phillips declined on the grounds of his religious beliefs.
He was again put before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which issued a formal complaint against the cakeshop in October 2018 on the grounds he had discriminated on the basis of gender identity.
Phillips said he decided to “push back” because “no one should be driven out of business because of their religious beliefs.” Represented by attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group, he filed a legal challenge against the commissioners, the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and other state officials.
“Those legal proceedings revealed an even deeper hostility toward my faith than previously known,” he said. One state commissioner had called him a “hater” on Twitter, while two others had publicly endorsed Rice’s “anti-religious” statements.
In January, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Wiley Daniel had said the lawsuit could proceed, given there is evidence of unequal treatment of Phillips “sufficient to establish they are pursuing the discrimination charges against Phillips in bad faith” motivated by his religion. Phillips “adequately alleged his speech is being chilled by the credible threat of prosecution.”
The judge allowed departing Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to be dropped from the suit because he was leaving leaving office. Gov. Jared Polis was not added to the suit.
State officials later agreed to drop the case.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said March 5 that both parties agreed “it was not in anyone’s best interest to move forward with these cases.”
“The larger constitutional issues might well be decided down the road, but these cases will not be the vehicle for resolving them,” he said, adding “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.”
(Story continues below)
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In his essay, Phillips said he hoped that the United States can “learn to tolerate and respect our differing beliefs” and that “governments stop harassing people whose faith they dislike.”
“If that happens, then maybe, just maybe, I can go back to being just a cake artist.”
The Supreme Court case came amid increased advocacy from influential LGBT groups and others against broad religious freedom protections.
The case was a focus of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, a San Francisco-based private family foundation with half a billion dollars in assets, which gave at least $500,000 to LGBT-supportive groups on advocacy and public relations campaigns related to Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2017 and 2018. The fund is one of several large funders which have committed nearly $10 million in various anti-religious freedom grants, according to CNA reports.
The Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling on Masterpiece Cakeshop was one of several recent cases involving the collision between legal recognition of same-sex marriage and the freedoms of speech and religion. Florists, photographers, and other wedding industry professionals have been involved in lawsuits about whether they can be required to create works of art for same-sex weddings to which they hold religious objections.
The rise of same-sex marriage and strict anti-discrimination laws and regulations have helped to close Catholic adoption agencies and others that decline to place children with same-sex couples.