U.S. Supreme Court to review Colorado cake shop gay discrimination case
Author: Peter Marcus - June 26, 2017 - Updated: June 27, 2017
A pivotal case involving a baker who refused to serve a gay couple in Colorado will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court said Monday that it would review the case, stemming from Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood. Phillips in 2012 declined to serve a gay couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins.
“This has always been about more than a cake. Businesses should not be allowed to violate the law and discriminate against us because of who we are and who we love,” Mullins said in a statement distributed by the ACLU, which is representing the couple.
“While we’re disappointed that the courts continue debating the simple question of whether LGBT people deserve to be treated like everyone else, we hope that our case helps ensure that no one has to experience being turned away simply because of who they are,” added Craig.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission said the baker violated a state law requiring that all customers be served, regardless of their sexual orientation. The Colorado Court of Appeals in 2015 found that Phillips could not cite religious beliefs or free-speech in refusing to make the wedding cake.
The Colorado Supreme Court declined to take up the case last year, which upheld the ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals, bringing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rep. Brittany Pettersen, whose district includes Masterpiece Cakeshop, said it “troubles” her that in 2017 conversations over discrimination are still happening.
“Religious freedom is one of our most cherished rights in this country, and no one is trying to change that. However, it’s very clear that religious freedom does not give anyone the right to discriminate against anyone else,” Pettersen said. “I stand with the LGBTQ community and hope that the Supreme Court does the right thing and bans the last vestige of legalized discrimination once and for all.”
Pettersen is running against Sen. Andy Kerr of Lakewood in a Democratic primary in the 7th Congressional District. Kerr’s district also includes the bakery. Also running in that race is Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City, a gay state lawmaker whose district does not include the bakery.
“Discrimination against LGBTQ Coloradans and all Americans is wrong – period,” Kerr said. “The excuse doesn’t matter – rights are rights, and the law is the law. The first vote I cast as a legislator was in support of LGBTQ equality, and my support has never wavered. I strongly believe the Supreme Court should come down on the side of rights and equality not bigotry and discrimination.”
The question is how the U.S. Supreme Court will swing with the addition of conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, a native Coloradan who was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill a vacant seat left by the death of Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch has so far been one of the more conservative members of the high court.
“All hardworking people, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer, should be treated fairly and equally under the law,” said Laura “Pinky” Reinsch, political director for the gay rights group One Colorado.
“When they walk into a business that’s open to the public, they should be treated like anyone else and not be discriminated against. Let’s be clear, the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is about a business turning customers away simply because they were gay, which violates longstanding Colorado law.”
Republican state lawmakers in 2015 attempted legislation that would have allowed businesses to refuse service based on religious beliefs. The bills would have prohibited punitive action against business owners for refusing service under religious beliefs as well as stopped the state from blocking the exercise of religion in most cases.
One of the sponsors of the legislation, now-House Republican Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, said, “As Americans, we cherish our fundamental rights to free speech and freedom of religion. Every American should celebrate laws that provide greater protections for our most important freedoms … the freedom to live faithfully.”