Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission on Friday ordered a Christian baker to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, ruling his religious objections did not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes.
The unanimous ruling from the seven-member commission upheld an administrative law judge’s decision in December that Jack Phillips violated the state’s civil rights law when he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012. The couple sued.
Phillips, a devout Christian who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, said the decision violates his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise. “I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.
The commission disagreed, ruling that religious liberty does not go beyond beliefs to practice. “I can believe anything I want, but if I’m going to do business here, I’d ought to not discriminate against people,” Commissioner Raju Jaram said. The panel issued its decision verbally, ordering Phillips to “stop discriminating against gay people,” document any customers he refuses to serve, provide “anti-discrimination training” for his staff, and report quarterly for two years.
Phillips said his bakery has been so overwhelmed by supporters eager to buy cookies and brownies that he does not currently make wedding cakes. His legal counsel, which includes religious liberty attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, are considering an appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals.
The couple who sued Phillips, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, described themselves as “thrilled” by the ruling. Gay marriage remains illegal in Colorado, but state law prohibits businesses from refusing to serve customers based on sexual orientation. Phillips told the men he would bake them any kind of cake other than a wedding cake.
Court rulings this year have not favored Christian-owned businesses caught in discrimination cases. The U.S. Supreme Court in April refused to hear the case of a Christian wedding photographer fined after she declined to work a same-sex commitment ceremony. The New Mexico Human Rights Commission levied a $6,637.94 fine, and the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled her refusal was the same as if the wedding were between people of different races. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries also ruled a Christian couple can’t refuse to bake cakes for same-sex weddings. LGBT activists forced that couple’s storefront shop to close with boycotts, threats, and vandalism.