Colorado baker continues to stand up for his religious beliefs by refusing to celebrate gender transition
WASHINGTON — Colorado baker Jack Phillips, whose refusal to bake a gay wedding cake on religious grounds went to the Supreme Court, is currently battling a ruling that he violated state anti-discrimination law for refusing to bake a cake to celebrate a gender transition.
During arguments in the Colorado Court of Appeals on October 5, Phillips’ attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom urged the court to overturn a ruling against their client last year on procedural grounds and said that the court should respect Phillips’ First Amendment rights.
Phillips was sued by a transgender woman, Autumn Scardina, who ordered a pink cake with blue frosting from Phillips’ boutique, Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2017.
At the 2021 trial, according to the Associated Press, Phillips said he thought someone couldn’t change their sex and didn’t celebrate “someone who thinks they can.” .
His attorney Jake Warner said in a statement that requiring Phillips to create a cake with a message contrary to his religious beliefs violates his free speech rights.
Scardina first filed a lawsuit against Phillips with the state and civil rights commission, which found probable cause that Phillips had discriminated against her. Phillips, in turn, filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Colorado, claiming he was engaged in a “crusade to crush it” by pursuing Scardina’s lawsuit.
AP reported that during last year’s trial in the case against the baker, Denver District Judge A. Bruce Jones rejected Phillips’ argument that baking the cake would constitute forced speech.
The judge said the cake was simply a product and could not be withheld from those protected by state anti-discrimination law. He said Phillips’ refusal to provide the cake was “inextricably linked” to his refusal to recognize Scardina as a woman.
The cake case certainly has echoes of the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop case where the Supreme Court narrowly sided with Phillips in its 7-2 decision.
Judge Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom in its original ruling against the baker, who refused to bake a wedding cake for the same-sex couple.
But he also said the advice was limited in scope and “must wait for further elaboration”.
The court said Phillips’ assertion “carried a significant component of First Amendment speech and involved his deep and sincere religious beliefs. In this context, the baker probably struggled to find a line where customers’ rights to goods and services became a request for him to exercise his right of self-expression for their message, a message he could not not express in a manner consistent with his religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court will have the opportunity to revisit the broader issues raised here in a case it will hear that term about a Colorado graphic designer, Lorie Smith, who doesn’t want to create wedding websites for couples in same sex based on his Christian beliefs about marriage. Smith is also defended by Alliance Defending Freedom.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined by the Colorado Catholic Conference and other faith groups, sided with the designer as it did with the baker five years ago.
In an amicus brief, they said the case gave the court an opportunity to clarify free speech issues they say the judges failed to do in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The USCCB brief said it was “urgent for the court to clarify how the compelled speech doctrine applies to marriage salesman cases and other disputes.”
He also said the pending case “provides an appropriate and particularly important opportunity to re-invoke free speech protections to resolve the lingering tensions in marriage vendor cases and in today’s larger cultural context.” broadly” and implored the court to “protect individuals from forced speech and provide space in the public square for minority voices.
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