Masterpiece Cakeshop – Photo: Jeffrey Beall, via Wikimedia.
The Colorado baker who made national headlines after refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, sparking a legal fight that went all the way to the Supreme Court, is at it again.
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., is again suing the state for religious discrimination after Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission found that he had discriminated against a transgender woman.
Phillips, working with anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom, claims that he is being unfairly targeted by the state for his religious beliefs, reports The Washington Post.
The most recent incident occurred on June 26, 2017 — the same day that the Supreme Court agreed to take up Phillips’ case surrounding his refusal to bake a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins.
According to Phillips’ complaint, Colorado lawyer Autumn Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop on that day to request a custom cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside. She told employees the cake was intended to celebrate her birthday, as well as the seventh anniversary of the day she had come out as transgender.
“Phillips declined to create the cake with the blue-and-pink design because it would have celebrated messages contrary to his religious belief that sex — the status of being male or female — is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed,” the complaint reads.
On June 28, 2018, three-and-a-half weeks after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s ruling against Phillips, the same commission ruled that there was probable cause that Phillips had discriminated against Scardina on the basis of gender identity, in violation of the state’s civil rights law.
By refusing to make a cake for Scardina, Phillips “denied her equal enjoyment of a place of public accommodation,” Aubrey Elenis, the director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, wrote in her ruling.
In the original case dealing with Phillips’ refusal to serve Craig and Mullins, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips, finding that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not taken seriously Phillips’ concerns about allegedly being forced to violate his religious beliefs opposing homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
But while the court acknowledged that there should be some type of exemption for business owners with sincere religious objections to providing goods or services to LGBTQ people, it also acknowledged that the government does have some interest in ensuring LGBTQ people are not blatantly discriminated against. And, Justice Anthony Kennedy added, the facts surrounding similar lawsuits may result in a different decision than the one reached by the court.
“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market,” Kennedy wrote on behalf of the majority.
Alliance Defending Freedom insists that the facts of this recent dispute — particularly the timing of Scardina’s request — prove that Phillips is being targeted and singled out for disparate treatment by Colorado officials. ADF says those officials are “doubling down on their anti-religious hostility” by finding Phillips in violation of Colorado’s civil rights law yet again.
“You would think that a clear Supreme Court decision against their first effort would give them pause,” ADF said in a statement. “But it seems like some in the state government are hellbent on punishing Jack for living according to his faith. If that isn’t hostility, what is?”