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ADF may appeal ruling against Colo. baker

Colorado cake shop owner Jack Phillips lost his appeal with the state's Court of Appeals Thursday (Jan. 26). File photo

NASHVILLE. (BP) — A Colorado Christian baker discriminated against a gay couple when he refused to bake their wedding cake, a Colorado appeals court ruled Aug. 13, and the baker’s attorney is expected to appeal the case to the Colorado Supreme Court.

The Alliance Defending Freedom “will most likely appeal” on behalf of baker Jack Phillips of Lakewood, Colo. in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Craig, the ADF media relations office told Baptist Press today (Aug. 14).

“Today’s ruling means that Colorado citizens have a First Amendment right to believe whatever they want…,” ADF Attorney Nicolle Martin told CBS Denver news on the day of the ruling. “But for citizens like Jack Phillips, the court has created a novel exception to the First Amendment — you’re entitled to believe, but not entitled to act on those beliefs. You’re not free if your beliefs are confined to your mind. What makes America unique is our freedom to peacefully live out these beliefs.”

Phillips said he has received “a ton of support” from the public.

“Most people are in agreement with us that a business and American citizen should have the right to decide what they make and they don’t want to make,” Phillips told CBS Denver.

The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld a December 2013 Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC) ruling in support of the gay couple, in which administration law judge Robert N. Spencer ordered Phillips to offer the same services to all customers irrespective of sexual preferences.

“We conclude that the act of designing and selling a wedding cake to all customers free of discrimination does not convey a celebratory message about same-sex weddings likely to be understood by those who view it,” the three-judge appellate court said in its published ruling. “We further conclude that, to the extent that the public infers from a Masterpiece wedding cake a message celebrating same-sex marriage, that message is more likely to be attributed to the customer than to Masterpiece.”

The case dates to July 2012 when two men, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, ordered a wedding cake at Phillips’ bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop. Citing his Christian convictions against same-sex marriage, Phillips refused the men’s order, and offered to sell them other baked goods in the store. Craig and Mullins claimed discrimination based on sexual orientation under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA).

The CCRC had ordered Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop to take remedial measures, including comprehensive staff training and alteration to the company’s policies to ensure compliance with CADA; and to file quarterly compliance reports for two years describing the remedial measures taken to comply with CADA, documenting all patrons who are denied service and the reasons for the denial.

Facing fines of $500 per violation, Phillips stopped baking wedding cakes altogether, and told CBS Denver he has lost about 40 percent of his business as a result.

The appellate court based its ruling in part on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding gay marriage in the June, 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges. Colorado has recognized same-sex marriage only since 2013; Craig and Mullins had planned to marry in Massachusetts before celebrating their vows in Colorado.

The appellate court also cited in its defense Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock, in which the New Mexico Supreme Court rejected an argument raised by Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, owners of Elane Photography, who had refused in 2006 to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony” in Taos, N.M.

Additionally, the court cited the February 2015 ruling against Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, in which Administrative Law Judge Alan McCullough ruled the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against a lesbian couple by declining, based on their religious convictions, the couple’s request for a wedding cake.

Phillips, the Kleins and the Huguenins are among many small business owners who upheld their Christian convictions in the public square.

When Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Washington State, declined a request from a longtime customer to make a flower arrangement for his same-sex wedding, a judge ruled that she had broken state consumer protection and anti-discrimination laws and put her at risk of monetary penalties against her individually and her business. Stutzman has appealed the ruling.

See BP’s compilation of such cases in this March 2015 story.