Religious beliefs, gay rights clash in court case over cake
A case that tests the boundaries of religious freedom and gay rights came to the Colorado Court of Appeals yesterday, with a suburban Denver baker urging judges not to force him to make cakes for same-sex couples because it would violate his beliefs.
But attorneys representing a gay couple who were denied a wedding cake in 2012 countered that allowing businesses to turn away customers through religious exemptions will facilitate future discrimination.
At the center of the case are baker Jack Phillips, owner of Lakewood's Masterpiece Cakeshop, and Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who were married in Massachusetts and wanted a wedding cake to celebrate in Colorado.
Phillips said he has no problem serving gay people at his store, but he says that making a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding would violate his Christian beliefs.
Ordered to change policy
Craig and Mullins filed a complaint with Colorado's Civil Rights Commission. In December 2013, a judge for the commission ruled that Phillips discriminated against the couple and ordered him to change his store policy against making cakes for gay weddings or face fines.
Phillips appealed the ruling. He has stopped making wedding cakes entirely out of fear that he'll violate the order that he make them for everyone, his attorneys said.
"Religious beliefs do not put the cake shop above the law," argued Ria Mar, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing the couple. The court will issue a ruling later.
The case underscores how the already simmering tension between religious-freedom advocates and gay-rights supporters is likely to become more heated in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court's landmark ruling last month legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.