Aug 16, 2018

Go deeper: Colorado baker's new lawsuit over transgender woman's cake

Jack Phillips, owner of 'Masterpiece Cakeshop' in Colorado outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Jack Phillips, owner of 'Masterpiece Cakeshop' in Colorado outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who won the Supreme Court’s recent Masterpiece Cakeshop case in June, alleged in a new challenge this week that the state discriminated against him over his refusal to make a blue and pink cake celebrating a woman's gender transition.

The big picture: Like the last case, Phillips claims that he cannot deploy his artistic talents to create a cake requested by a transgender woman because it violates his religious and moral convictions. The state has ruled against his decision, and this case will be a major test over whether businesses can invoke religious objections to deny services to LGBTQ people after the Supreme Court punted on giving a definite answer to that question in Phillips' last case.

How we got here: On the same day in June 2017 when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Masterpiece case, Colorado lawyer Autumn Scardina requested a cake to celebrate the seventh anniversary of her transition, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday.

  • In a complaint to the state explaining her interaction with an employee at the cake shop, Scardina wrote: “The woman on the phone did not object to my request for a birthday cake until I told her I was celebrating my transition from male to female."

Two weeks after the court’s narrow 7-2 ruling that Phillips was in his rights to refuse service to a same-sex couple, the state’s civil rights division issued a decision ordering the baker to make the cake for the woman. The state argued he discriminated against Scardina because of her transgender status in violation of Colorado’s public accommodations law.

The other side: The baker claims the state violated his First Amendment rights to exercise his religious beliefs freely when they issued their decision. He invoked the same sentiments when the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled against his decision for refusing to bake a custom cake for a same-sex couple.

What they're saying: The conservative Christian group, Alliance Defending Freedom, which funded Phillip’s previous challenge, claims that Colorado "is ignoring the message of the U.S. Supreme Court."

  • Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, told Colorado Public Radio in an interview Thursday that he supports religious freedom, but doesn’t believe anyone should use it to deny service. "I don't think there should be bias involved in who you choose to serve and who you don’t," he said.

The backdrop: In its 7-2 decision, striking down a lower court's ruling, the Supreme Court said earlier this year Colorado officials had not taken the baker's religious beliefs seriously enough. But it made a cation, ensuring other similar legal fights could be ruled on differently.

"The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market."
— The opinion reads.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who voted against the baker, predicted at an event earlier this month that a case might soon return to the court to determine whether there’s religious freedom protections to anti-discrimination policies, reports The New York Times' Adam Liptak.

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