Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling: What they’re saying in Colorado
Author: Colorado Politics - June 4, 2018 - Updated: June 4, 2018
A Colorado ruling against a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado was overturned Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court in a decision that questioned the conduct of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the matter.
Here’s a roundup of comments from Colorado leaders and others about Monday’s ruling.
Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the couple for whom baker Jack Phillips refused to make a wedding cake:
Today’s decision means our fight against discrimination and unfair treatment will continue. We have always believed that in America, you should not be turned away from a business open to the public because of who you are. We brought this case because no one should have to face the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation of being told ‘we don’t serve your kind here’ that we faced, and we will continue fighting until no one does.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper:
It’s against Colorado law to deny goods and services to any individual because of sexual orientation. Nothing in the narrow opinion released today by the United States Supreme Court changes that, or prevents the state from protecting LGBTQ persons from discrimination. While we are disappointed with the decision, we take seriously the Court’s admonition that the state must apply its laws and regulations in a manner that is neutral toward religion. We have no doubt that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission will meet that standard as they listen, respectfully, to all sides of the matters that come before it and issue decisions that uphold the protections afforded under Colorado law.
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman:
Today the Supreme Court determined that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’s sincerely held religious beliefs in this particular case. Based on the statements of some Commissioners, the Court found that the proceedings did not honor the State’s solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws. At the same time, the opinion is narrow. The Court made its decision based on a specific set of facts and left open many legal questions. Unfortunately, those questions will have to be decided in future litigation. The Court did make clear, however, that States like Colorado may continue to protect the LGBTQ community, reaffirming principles my office has consistently defended for the past six years. The general rule was, and remains, that the First Amendment does not allow business owners to deny members of the community equal access to goods and services. As the Court said, the right of gay people and couples to “exercise … their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect.” The Court’s decision did nothing to undermine protections the Colorado General Assembly granted to the LGBTQ community under our Anti-Discrimination Act.
Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University:
Today’s decision is a victory for all Americans regardless of religious affiliation as the Supreme Court reaffirmed the importance of religious freedom and freedom of conscience from government interference.
Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne:
While the court’s decision was limited in this ruling, the outcome makes it clear that Colorado must do more to ensure that all people, particularly members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, are treated fairly and with the dignity and respect they deserve. Our lawmakers must take up this critical issue during the next legislative session so that all Coloradans know they will not be turned away because of who they love.
State Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs:
Today, the United States Supreme Court found that our State’s Civil Rights Commission acted with hostility toward a citizen’s free exercise of religion. In fact, the Court noted the unchallenged hostility toward religion by this group appointed by our Governor. The Court found that the very body charged with protecting the rights of our citizens acted with hostility toward those rights in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. During the legislative session, I struggled to restore balance to the Civil Rights Commission and ensure that it would not be captured by a viewpoint that favors one set of protected rights over another. This is the very reason I worked last session to restore balance and accountability to the Civil Rights Commission. While some believed the legislation achieved that, I did not and voted against the reauthorization of an unaccountable commission. The Court’s ruling today confirms that my concerns were legitimate and the need for balance on the Commission absolutely essential for our citizens. The Governor we elect this year will make at least three appointments to the Commission early next year. That is why it is critical that we elect a Governor committed to protecting all of our civil rights, including the right to religious freedom.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder:
This is a disheartening ruling for the LGBTQ community and a sad reminder that we have a long way to go in building a nation where everyone is free from discrimination, regardless of who they are or who they love. Here in Colorado, equality is a fundamental value. We take great pride in having some of the strongest, most forward-thinking non-discrimination laws in the country. To be clear, nothing in this ruling gives opponents of equality justification to try to undo those laws or dismantle the vital Colorado Civil Rights Commission. As Coloradans, we will stand strong against any attacks on our fundamental rights.
Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City:
This ruling stands as a clear and humbling rebuke to all those, inside and outside the Statehouse, who took the position this last session that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission can do no wrong, and that it always acts within appropriate legal and constitutional boundaries. It clearly does not. Not only does this ruling demonstrate why Senate Republicans made the effort we did to reform the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, but I think this opens the door to follow-up reforms now that we all have a better understanding of where cases of overreach and abuse can occur. We hate to say we told you so … but we told you so. We pushed for modest but necessary reforms and restraints, which were designed to rein-in the potential for such abuses, but Democrats refused to budge on much of what we proposed, and even now seek to diminish the significance of this ruling. This shows precisely why the Civil Rights Commission needed to be depoliticized, de-radicalized and returned to its original mission — to protect the civil liberties of all Coloradans, not just a select few. The refusal of many Democrats and special interests to see the need for any but the most innocuous reforms offers troubling proof that they care more about politicizing the commission than seeing it follow constitutional principle. We hope they will do some serious soul-searching in the wake of this ruling. But I will not hold my breath.
Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver:
While I’m disappointed that we didn’t see a clear decision in support of civil rights today, it’s important to recognize that this is a narrow holding, and our statewide protections against discrimination are still the law of the land. Colorado has a long history of defending civil rights, and now more than ever we must stand firm and continue providing protections against discrimination.
State Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, on Twitter:
Jack Phillips was wrongly persecuted by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. I will work next session to insert additional guardrails into law so that CCRC doesn’t harm people of faith again.
One Colorado, an LGBTQ advocacy group:
Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court does not change our country’s long-standing principle that businesses open to the public must be open to all. While we are disappointed the Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop and their discrimination against Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, the fact remains that Colorado has a civil rights division and anti-discrimination laws that equally protect the fundamental rights of all Coloradans. We strongly believe that the freedom of religion must be defended as one of our most fundamental values as Americans, but that freedom cannot be used to harm others or discriminate against others. Coloradans across our state – including LGBTQ Coloradans and their families – can take heart from today’s decision that no matter who you are, who you love, or what you believe, you will still be protected in our state from discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.