Colorado court gives no relief to baker who declined to serve gay wedding

Colorado court gives no relief to baker who declined to serve gay wedding

Credit: Alex Grichenko (CC0 1.0).
Credit: Alex Grichenko (CC0 1.0).

.- A Colorado baker has lamented the Colorado Court of Appeals’ ruling handed down Thursday that he illegally discriminated when he declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop said that in his view the ruling means that the court created an exception to the First Amendment that wrongly affects his family-run bakery.

“You’re entitled to believe, but not entitled to act on those beliefs,” he said in an Aug. 13 statement.

“You’re not free if your beliefs are confined to your mind,” Phillips objected. “What makes America unique is our freedom to peacefully live out these beliefs.”

He had appealed the decision of Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission that he violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when he declined to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The unanimous Aug. 13 ruling from the Colorado Court of Appeals said, “discrimination on the basis of one’s opposition to same-sex marriage is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

The ruling rejected the cake shop’s other defenses, including its stated willingness to serve gay and lesbian customers who requested birthday cakes, cookies, and other “non-wedding cake products.”

Phillips’ bakery in Lakewood, Colorado no longer bakes wedding cakes, after the civil rights commission ruled against his shop. In 2012, he had declined a request from two men who wanted him to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding reception. Phillips said making the cake would violate his religious beliefs. In response, the two men filed a legal complaint against him.

The civil rights commission ordered Phillips and his staff to undergo anti-discrimination training and to submit quarterly reports on how he is changing company policies.

Phillips has decided not to make any wedding cakes, his only legal option to continue his business without violating his beliefs.

At the time of the controversy, Colorado law did not recognize same-sex marriage. The Colorado appeals court cited the June 2015 decision mandating nationwide recognition of such unions, noting that the Supreme Court equated laws that preclude same-sex marriage to “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Another Colorado man reacted to the ruling against the bakery by filing complaints against three other bakeries that refused to make his requested cakes, which included religious imagery and loosely paraphrased Biblical phrases about sin and homosexuality. His claims that these bakeries discriminated against him were rejected by the Civil Rights Division of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

That case was mentioned in the ruling against Masterpiece Cakes. The court said that the bakers “did not refuse the patron’s request because of his creed, but rather because of the offensive nature of the requested message.”

The court claimed that because the state anti-discrimination law forbids all businesses from discrimination, it is “unlikely that the public would view Masterpiece’s creation of a cake for a same-sex wedding celebration as an endorsement of that conduct” and a reasonable observer would consider that the behavior is not a reflection of its own beliefs.

Philips objected that the court’s logic mean different treatment for citizens who hold “government approved views on same-sex marriage” and those who do not.

According to the latest ruling, the law would bar the bakery from notifying customers that it refuses to provide services for a same-sex marriage, though the decision said the bakery could post a disclaimer saying that providing its services for such an event does not constitute an endorsement.

A strict application of state and local anti-discrimination laws and policies have begun to constrict the freedom of businesses and organizations with moral objections to homosexual acts and relationships.

Catholic-run adoption agencies in some states have been forced to close, because the law would require them to place children with same-sex couples against their religious beliefs.

Tags: Gay Marriage, Religious liberty, Discrimination, Conscience Protection, Same-sex marriage