Punished For Refusing To Make Same Sex Cake.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case surrounding a Christian baker who was punished after refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony — a ruling that could have sweeping ramifications for both religious liberty and equal protection rights.
The Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case will be heard in the fall, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The controversial legal battle surrounds baker Jack Phillips’ 2012 refusal of a same-sex wedding cake. Phillips, much like Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein and numerous other wedding venders across the U.S., has found himself in the crosshairs of the government as well as LGBTQ activists after declining to make the cake.
The baker has been locked in a tough, five-year legal battle with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The agency ruled that his cake refusal was in violation of anti-discrimination laws and punished him accordingly; he responded with appeals that made their way up to the nation’s high court (more on that here)
It’s important to note that the Supreme Court’s silence-breaking announcement on the Phillips case comes as uncertainty remains surrounding the balance between First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights (i.e. religious freedom vs. equal protection under the law). Meanwhile, many conservatives are lauding a lower court victory in a separate lower court ruling that found that a printer in Kentucky was within his rights to refuse making T-shirts for a gay pride event.
As Faithwire previously reported, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled 2-to-1 that Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands on Originals, a print shop based in Lexington, Kentucky, is correct in his argument that being forced to create the T-shirts was a violation of his religious beliefs, according to the Becket, a law firm devoted to the defense of religious liberty.
Problems began for Adamson, who is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm, after he was asked in 2012 by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization to make shirts for a local gay pride event. He declined and offered to help the group find other printers who might be willing to do so — but that did little to temper controversy and consternation.
Eventually, Adamson came under fire from the government, though he has successfully fought back along the way. His victory raises new questions about how to navigate the continued debate between First Amendment rights and Fourteenth Amendment protections.
Alliance Defending Freedom, the firm that represents Adamson as well as Phillips, sent a letter to the Supreme Court on May 12, noting the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruling meant that the printer and his shop “could not be held liable for sexual orientation discrimination under a local ordinance for declining to print shirts promoting the Lexington Pride Festival for the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization.
Punished For Refusing To Make Same Sex Cake.
This certainly will be held up by many of Phillips’ supporters to defend his purported right not to make the gay wedding cake, but whether it convinces the high court remains to be seen.
These Legal Battles Get Pretty Complicated.
The situation is quite complicated, with the details of these cases remaining murky and tough to navigate. To illustrate the potential differences between gay wedding cake refusals and a decision not to print gay pride T-shirts, it’s important to look back at a separate 2015 case that gained national attention.
That incident surrounded Azucar Bakery in Denver, Colorado, which declined to fulfill two cake orders in 2014 that included Bible references, as well as imagery, that the bakery deemed offensive. It all started when a Christian named William Jack went into the shop and requested two Bible-shaped cakes that would feature two men holding hands with a red “X” over them.
He wanted one of the cakes to read, “God hates sin. Psalm 45:7” and “Homosexuality is a detestable sin. Leviticus 18:22” and he requested that the other have the same images along with the words “God loves sinners” and “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8,” KMGH-TV reported.
But owner Marjorie Silva refused the order. The baker said she’d make the Bible-shaped cakes, but that she wouldn’t include the images or verses; later, she also argued that she also wouldn’t make a cake that targeted any other group, including Christians.
Jack responded by going to the Colorado Civil Rights Division, the state’s civil rights agency, and alleging that he was discriminated against based on his Christian creed. Silva, however, countered that she was merely refusing to make the cakes based on the belief that the images were “hateful and offensive,” as KMGH-TV noted.
So, with the commission’s punishment of Phillips in mind, how did the same state agency rule when Jack waged his own complaint against Silva’s anti-gay cake refusal? Quite differently, in fact, with the agency writing in its decision that the bakery (along with two separate bakers that were also purportedly approached by Jack) “did not discriminate based on the Charging Party’s creed.
“Instead, the evidence reflects that the Respondent declined to make the Charging Party’s cakes, as he had envisioned them, because he requested the cakes include derogatory language and imagery,” the letter continued. “The evidence demonstrates that the Respondent would deny such requests to any customer, regardless of creed.”
There’s Been Consternation Over the Seemingly Divergent Decision.
The ruling on the Azucar Bakery case — especially compared to Phillips’ own outcome — has led to some serious head-scratching among many conservatives, who feel it was unfair for the same agency to punish one baker and then let the other one off the hook.
But UCLA professor and attorney Eugene Volokh explained his view on how Colorado law works in these cases:
While Jack has succeeded in getting publicity for his cause, he doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. Colorado law bans discrimination by a wide range of businesses, but only when the discrimination is based on “disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry.” This means that a store may not specifically refuse to sell cakes to gays, or sell them to (say) Baptists. It may well mean that it may not specifically refuse to sell cakes for use in same-sex marriages, or in Baptist events. It may even mean that it may not specifically refuse to inscribe messages that identify buyers as gay (e.g., “John and Bill’s marriage”), or as Baptist (e.g., “Baptist Church Picnic”).
But nothing in the law bans discrimination based on ideology more broadly. A store can refuse to sell to someone because he’s a Nazi, or a Communist, or pro-life, or pro-choice, or pro-gay-rights, or anti-gay-rights. A store can likewise refuse to inscribe cakes with Nazi, Communist, pro-life, pro-choice, pro-gay-rights, or anti-gay-rights messages, if it’s discriminating based on the ideology of the message, rather than the religiosity of the buyer.
But not every attorney agreed with this assessment. Punished For Refusing To Make same sex Cake.