Last June, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused service to a gay couple.
Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, is making headlines again.
This time, the baker is declining to make a blue and pink birthday cake for a transgender woman.
Lawyers for Philips responded to the complaint in U.S. District Court on Tuesday:
“The cake’s design would have celebrated messages contrary to his religious belief that sex — the status of being male or female — is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed.”
Masterpiece Cakeshop owner maintains that it is his constitutional right to refuse service to people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community. Protected under free speech and freedom of religion, small businesses are apparently exempt from state nondiscrimination laws, according to Phillips and his lawyers.
Phillips is also arguing that after the last case regarding the same-sex wedding cake, LGBT people have been harassing him.
The Birthday Cake Case
Autumn Scardina, a lawyer from Denver, called Masterpiece Cakeshop to request a birthday cake on June 26, 2017. June 26, 2017, was coincidentally the same day that the Supreme Court agreed to hear the wedding cake case.
It is unknown if Scardina was aware of the high profile case when she made her order.
Her complaint read:
“They asked what I wanted the cake to look like, and I explained I was celebrating my birthday on July 6, 2017, and that it would also be the 7th year of my transition from male to female. When I explained I am a transexual and that I wanted my birthday cake to celebrate my transition by having a blue exterior and a pink interior, they told me they will not make the cake based on their religious beliefs. The woman on the phone told me they do not make cakes celebrating gender changes. 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. I believe other people who request birthday cakes get to select the color and theme of the cake.”
The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) prohibits public places like shops or restaurants from discriminating against customers based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Due to this law, the commission found that Phillips broke the law even under the guise of religious freedom.
The Christian baker and the Alliance Defending Freedom (a Christian legal group representing Phillips) filed the lawsuit first this time. Their complaint states that Colorado’s protection of transgender rights is “blatantly and brazenly hostile toward religion.” In other words, it is apparently a contentious issue that transgender and non-binary individuals are given rights.
The Wedding Cake Case
In June, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission allegedly showed hostility towards the baker’s religious beliefs. A commissioner compared Phillip’s defenses to excuses used for slavery and the Holocaust.
Due to the Court’s ruling on the previous case, Phillips believes that the courts will vindicate him once again over the birthday cake dispute. However, the new case differs greatly from the former.
The lawsuit shows no evidence of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission exhibiting hostility towards Phillips’ religion, which was the central theme in the wedding cake case.
Secondly, Philips’ previous arguments maintaining that a wedding ceremony violated his religious beliefs and him refusing business is limited to same-sex weddings.
In an interview with the New York Times last September Phillips stated:
“I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, cookies, brownies. I just can’t make a cake for a same-sex wedding.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom’s claims are based upon refusing service in order to avoid conflicts with religious beliefs.
Even though the controversy surrounds denying business to LGBT people, critics are wondering if allowing people to be exempt from non-discrimination laws because of religious affiliations is a slippery slope.
How do Philips and his supporters feel about non-married, heterosexual couples who live together, have premarital sex, or have children out of wedlock? Would he refuse service to them as well?
Worse yet, some fear that this could allow other shop owners to use religion as an excuse for racial discrimination.
Similarly, the arguments that Phillips and his team are using are reminiscent of arguments for segregation. Segregationists claimed that equal service or equality, in general, was a direct attack on their fundamental rights.
Featured Image via Flickr.