Jack Phillips can’t stop, and he won’t stop.
The Masterpiece Cakeshop plaintiff is suing the state of Colorado for “clear and impermissible hostility” toward religion after winning his Supreme Court case last June.
In a narrow 7-2 ruling, the bench claimed the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not given neutral consideration to his faith in weighing a complaint filed by Charlie Craig and David Mullins.
In 2012, Phillips declined to bake a cake for the couple’s wedding, citing his Christian beliefs. The Commission sided with Craig and Mullins, but SCOTUS effectively overturned that decision.
Now the two parties will face off in court yet again. The same day that SCOTUS said it would hear an appeal in Phillips’ case, a transgender attorney in Denver, Autumn Scardina, requested a cake to celebrate her gender transition. The proposed pastry was blue on the outside and pink on the inside.
Phillips again declined the request. In legal briefs filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, his attorneys claim “the custom cake would have expressed messages about sex and gender identity that conflict with his religious beliefs.”
The right-wing law firm says the Lakewood baker was “surprised” the Commission allowed a complaint against him to proceed after the SCOTUS verdict.
As that case proceeds, Phillips has filed suit against the state.
ADF claims the state is “acting in bad faith and with bias” by “finding probable cause to believe that Colorado law requires him to create the requested gender-transition cake.”
“The same agency that the Supreme Court rebuked as hostile to Jack Phillips has remained committed to treating him unequally and forcing him to express messages that violate his religious beliefs,” ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell alleged in a press release.
Initially, Phillips sought damages from each member of the Commission, as well as Colorado Civil Rights Division Director Aubrey Elenis and former Gov. John Hickenlooper.
But on Tuesday, Judge Wiley Y. Daniel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado dismissed punitive claims against the majority of defendants in the case. Only Cynthia H. Coffman, the state’s attorney general, was deemed a “proper defendant” in the suit.
The district court allowed the suit to proceed, despite Colorado’s motion to dismiss.
Daniel further signaled the court is sympathetic to Phillips’ argument. The senior judge wrote that the Commission had engaged in “disparate treatment” by allowing “other cake artists to decline requests to create custom cakes that express messages they deem objectionable.”
In other cases brought before civil rights commissioners, Colorado allegedly allowed bakers to turn down cake requests which expressed racist or anti-LGBTQ messages.
Phillips says the double standard violates his Constitutional right to religious freedom.
But while the Supreme Court ruled narrowly in his favor last year, the nation’s highest bench declined to weigh in on whether Phillips’ faith beliefs permitted him to decline services to same-sex couples, as so-called “religious liberty” advocates have argued. That issue could be decided by future SCOTUS rulings.
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