Colorado Court Rejects Masterpiece Cakeshop Owner’s Appeal of Discrimination Case
Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, has been fighting a 10-year legal battle with the state after refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2018. On Thursday, the Colorado Court of Appeals rejected Phillips' appeal in a separate case in which he had refused to bake a cake for a transgender woman in 2017.
The court held that Phillips violated Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) when he turned down the request for a cake celebrating the woman's gender transition. The court also found that creating a pink cake with blue frosting is not inherently expressive, and any message or symbolism it provides to an observer would not be attributed to the baker.
Phillips' legal representation, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), has criticized the appeals court’s decision and plans to appeal it. ADF senior counsel Jake Warner said in a statement: “Free speech is for everyone. No one should be forced to express a message that violates their core beliefs.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to hand down a decision in a similar case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, in which a Christian artist challenges Colorado laws about discrimination. The case also involves a Christian business owner whose religious beliefs are inimical to LGBTQ rights.
In the 2017 incident, Autumn Scardina contacted Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a custom pink cake with blue frosting to celebrate her birthday and transition from a man to a woman. Phillips refused, citing his religious beliefs, and Scardina filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination.
Judge Timothy Schutz wrote in the appellate opinion that Phillips discriminated against Scardina because of her status as a trans woman. Warner argued that the state is misusing law to force Phillips to make statements he objects to, and that all Americans should be free to say what they believe, even if the government disagrees with those beliefs.
Ultimately, the court found that CADA does not infringe on Phillips' free speech and religious exercise. This decision comes amid a broader campaign of harassment against the Christian baker, and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis could potentially reaffirm Christians’ rights to refuse certain services on religious grounds.
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