The Trump administration sided with Colorado baker Jack Phillips (above), who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple. The DOJ filed an amicus brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Acting Solicitor Gen. Jeffrey B. Wall filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the cake maker’s rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion should prevail over a Colorado civil rights law that forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“A custom wedding cake is a form of expression,” he said. “It is an artistic creation that is both subjectively intended and objectively perceived as a celebratory symbol of a marriage.” And as such, the baker has a free-speech right under the 1st Amendment to refuse to “express” his support for a same-sex marriage, Wall argued.
The case of the Colorado cake maker has emerged as the latest battle in the culture wars. It is a clash between the religious rights of a conservative Christian against gay rights and equal treatment for same-sex couples.
Read the brief here.
The brief was filed in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case in which a Colorado bakery refused to serve a same-sex couple seeking a cake for their wedding reception. Lower courts have previously found that Masterpiece Cakeshop violated Colorado’s non-discrimination law when it refused service to David Mullins and Charlie Craig.
Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, had the following reaction:
“This Justice Department has already made its hostility to the rights of LGBT people and so many others crystal clear. But this brief was shocking, even for this administration. What the Trump Administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate.
“We are confident that the Supreme Court will rule on the side of equal rights just as the lower courts have.”
In July 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig went to Denver’s Masterpiece Cake Shop, owned by Phillips, looking for a cake to celebrate the couple’s upcoming nuptials.
Phillips denied the couple’s request and later admitted he had turned away other same-sex couples as a matter of policy.
In 2013, a judge ruled against Phillips. The Colorado Civil Rights Division’s [CCRD’s] decision noted evidence in the record that Phillips had expressed willingness to take a cake order for the “marriage” of two dogs, but not for the commitment ceremony of two women, and that he would not make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding celebration “just as he would not be willing to make a pedophile cake.”
Phillips and his lawyers, the ultraconservative anti-gay legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, have been appealing the ruling since, and losing each time, which is now why it has reached SCOTUS.