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Colorado Ruling Upholds Baker Cannot Cite Religion To Refuse Same-Sex Customers

( [email protected] ) Apr 26, 2016 02:10 PM EDT
Colorado Supreme Court judges refused Monday to accept the case of a suburban Denver baker who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, letting stand a lower court's ruling that the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner cannot cite his Christian beliefs or free-speech rights in refusing service.
Ashers Baking Co had been found guilty of discrimination in May last year for refusing to make a cake bearing the words "Support Gay Marriage" and a picture of characters Bert and Ernie from the television show Sesame Street. Facebook

Colorado Supreme Court judges refused Monday to accept the case of a suburban Denver baker who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, letting stand a lower court's ruling that the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner cannot cite his Christian beliefs or free-speech rights in refusing service.

Bakery owner Jack Phillips, in business since 1993, declined to make a cake in 2012 for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who were married in Massachusetts and planned a celebration in Colorado.

The married men filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled in December 2013 that Phillips discriminated against them and ordered him to change his store policy against making cakes for gay weddings or face fines. Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer said offering the same services to gay couples as heterosexual couples did not violate Phillips' rights to free speech nor does it prevent him from exercising his religious freedom, reports the Denver Post.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision required the cake shop to take remedial measures including comprehensive staff training and the filing of quarterly compliance reports. Phillips appealed.

The Colorado Court of Appeals also ruled against the bakery owner.

Phillips' legal costs were covered by the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the baker's website offers the option of donating to the case online through PayPal

"We asked the Colorado Supreme Court to take this case to ensure that government understands that its duty is to protect the people's freedom to follow their beliefs personally and professionally, not force them to violate those beliefs as the price of earning a living," Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement. "Jack, who has happily served people of all backgrounds for years, simply exercised the long-cherished American freedom to decline to use his artistic talents to promote a message and event with which he disagrees, and that freedom shouldn't be placed in jeopardy for anyone."

"The highest court in Colorado affirmed that no one should be turned away from a public-facing business because of who they are or who they love," Ria Tabacco Mar, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's LGBT Project who argued the case, said in a statement. "We all have a right to our personal beliefs, but we do not have a right to impose those beliefs on others and discriminate against them."

Tabacco Mar had argued, according to ABC News, on behalf of Craig and Mullins.

Attorney Nicolle Martin, who represents Phillips, said they had not yet decided whether to accept the ruling, ask Colorado's highest court to reconsider, or approach the U.S. Supreme Court. Martin says she is surprised the Colorado court would not consider the case.

"This is a matter that affects all Americans, not just people of faith," Martin said.

Phillips has said he has no problem serving gay people at his store, but that making a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding would violate his Christian beliefs.

Colorado lawmakers introduced a bill in February that would have blocked the state from taking any action that may burden a person's religious freedom unless it was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. A House committee indefinitely postponed discussion on the bill.

Critics say the legislation that has been proposed in states across the country to protect those who, due to religious beliefs, decline to employ or serve certain people are aimed at the LGBT community and are discriminatory.

 

 

Tags : Same Sex Weddings, Religious Freedom, Colorado Baker, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Alliance Defending Freedom, Christian beliefs, LGBTQ, LGBT, Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Colorado news, Colorado Supreme Court