COLUMN: Slice added to Colorado cake case
Liberty Counsel has filed an amicus brief in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the government can force a Lakewood, Colorado, cake artist to create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex ceremony.
This case will be heard this fall and could have a wide impact regarding the clash between religious freedom and the LGBT movement, including laws that add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."
In July 2016, Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, asked the high court to take his case and rule whether the state's "public accommodations" law violates the First Amendment by requiring him to create custom wedding cakes for same-sex weddings. The state law currently states that businesses open to the public may not deny service to customers based on their race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.
No federal law requires businesses to serve all customers without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, 21 states have "public accommodations" laws that include one or both phrases. They include California and six other states in the West, Illinois and three other states in the upper Midwest, and 10 states on the East Coast from Maryland to Maine. No state in the South or on the Great Plains has such a law.
In 2012, Phillips said he politely declined to make a wedding cake for Charles Craig and David Mullins, who had planned to "marry" in Massachusetts but then have a reception in their home state of Colorado.
The Colorado Supreme Court declined to take the case after the state's Court of Appeals affirmed a Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision from May 2014, which ruled that Phillips violated the Colorado law. That decision ordered Phillips and his employees to create cakes that celebrate same-sex ceremonies and required him to comply with Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act by re-educating his staff (which includes members of his own family) and filing quarterly "compliance" reports for two years.
"The Supreme Court's ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case could have a significant impact throughout the country on the important question of whether government can force people or businesses to participate in and celebrate a same-sex ceremony that violates their deeply-held religious beliefs," said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. "This case is not about providing a neutral service to a patron. It is about forced participation and promotion of a same-sex ceremony when that event collides with religious convictions.
“In the same way that refusing to promote a KKK or a pro-abortion rally is not discrimination on the basis of race or gender, so refusing to participate in a same-sex ceremony does not violate a public accommodation law,” Staver continued. “When Jack Phillips creates custom wedding cakes, he is promoting and celebrating the couple's wedding. He should not be forced to promote a message or an event that conflicts with his religious beliefs.”
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, started in 1989, that provides provides pro bono legal assistance on issues it defines as pertaining to religious freedom, the sanctity of life and the family.
Posted 9/18/17; Opinion: General)
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