Metro Weekly

Newseum debates landmark Supreme Court anti-gay baker case

Moot court previews talking points for case about the legality of denying service to LGBTQ people

Photo: Ralph Daily, via Wikimedia.

Five years after Colorado baker Jack Phillips used religion to justify refusing a gay couple a wedding cake, the Supreme Court is preparing to hear oral arguments in one of the year’s most anticipated cases.

With only weeks until the start of Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which will determine whether Phillips’ actions were legally justified, a discussion was held at the Newseum on Monday to debate the ramifications of the case.

Organized by Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Phillips, the event saw David Cortman of ADF and Ria Mar of the American Civil Liberties Union participating in a moot trial to debate their clients’ cases.

Cortman said that a victory for Masterpiece Cakeshop would be a victory for free speech, allowing protection for artists to sell their services without being forced to promote messages they disagree with.

“We don’t want the government telling people what they can believe. We don’t want the government telling us what we have to say,” Cortman said. “You think that would be shared across the board regardless of your views on marriage or any other issue.”

Cortman added that people need to move out of the “emotional state” of saying the Masterpiece case is related to LGBTQ rights.

“This is not about discrimination. Everyone should serve everyone else, even based on their protected characteristics,” he said. “But what we’re saying is that regardless of who is asking, no one should be compelled to speak a message they disagree with.”

Mar represented the couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, in the discussion, and said that regardless of the artistry Phillip puts into his cakes, it was still a case of discrimination.

“The bakery thinks it should be exempt from this general rule because cakes are artistic,” Mar said. “This case is not about whether cakes are art, it’s about whether the government can prohibit discrimination even when the product they happen to sell is artistic.”

She said that should the Supreme Court rule in favor of the cakeshop, it would have extensive ramifications on other minority groups.

“It’s going to authorize discrimination, not just against LGBT people and not just in the wedding context, but really against all of us, members of vulnerable groups who have a history of exclusion of public life,” said Mar.

The case is set to hear oral arguments on Dec. 5th. The courts have ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in both the administrative law hearing and the Court of Appeals.