Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who took a religious refusals case involving a gay couple to the U.S. Supreme Court, is appealing a discrimination ruling on his refusal to make a cake celebrating a transgender woman’s transition.
Autumn Scardina had sued Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, after he declined to provide the transition cake in 2017. It was to be pink with blue frosting. Phillips’s wife initially accepted the order for the cake, but Scardina revealed the purpose for the design, and the bakery turned her down. Phillips, a conservative Christian, said he would not “promote the idea that a person’s sex is anything other than an immutable God-given biological reality” and that being forced to do so would violate his free speech rights.
Denver District Judge A. Bruce Jones ruled in June 2021 that Phillips violated Colorado’s antidiscrimination law, which bans discrimination. based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Jones fined Phillips $500. Phillips filed an appeal of the ruling Wednesday with the Colorado Court of Appeals, the Associated Press reports.
“I’m faithful and hopeful that the court continues to respect Colorado’s standing laws that say all people should be entitled to goods and services on an equal basis and that the rights and dignities of LGBTQ people be maintained,” Scardina said Wednesday, according to TV station KDVR.
But Phillips said, “This is not just about Masterpiece Cakeshop. This is about the rights of all Americans.” He said the shop “cannot create every message that people ask us to create.” It refuses some other orders, such as cakes with insulting messages, erotic cakes, or Halloween ones.
Phillips had previously run afoul of the state law when he refused to make a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple several years ago, saying that to do so would violate his Christian beliefs and therefore his First Amendment rights of religious expression and free speech. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that he had violated the antidiscrimination statute, but the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case in 2017, and in 2018 it vacated the commission’s decision, saying the commission had not shown sufficient respect for Phillips’s religious beliefs.
The high court, however, did not rule that there was a general right to discriminate when customers’ requests offended a business owner’s beliefs. The justices simply said, in a 7-2 ruling, that government bodies must treat religion neutrally.
The question of religious refusals will be before the court again in this term, as it will hear a case in which a website designer wants to preemptively refuse to create wedding sites for same-sex couples. The designer, Lorie Smith, also of Colorado, is represented by the anti-LGBTQ+ Alliance Defending Freedom, the same legal nonprofit that represents Phillips in the Scardina case and represented him at the Supreme Court.
It will be a very different Supreme Court than the one Phillips faced in 2017. With the deaths of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia and the retirement of Anthony Kennedy, Donald Trump had the opportunity to appoint three justices, all of whom are ultraconservative, so the court has a 6-3 conservative majority. The court in 2017 had a 4-4 split of liberals and conservatives, with Kennedy being the hard-to-predict “swing“ justice.
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