Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
A Look at Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
David Mullins and Charlie Craig, both residents of Colorado, decided to get married in 2012. Since Colorado did not have a law recognizing marriages between two people of the same sex, the couple chose to get married in Massachusetts. They planned a reception back home where they could celebrate with friends and family. They chose Masterpiece Cakeshop at Lakewood for their personalized wedding cake.
Jack Phillips, the Christian owner of Masterpiece, turned down their request and said that he could not bake wedding cakes for homosexual couples since it went against his religious beliefs. He did allow the couple to buy any of the available baked goods from the store, but he would not make the personalized cake as he did not endorse homosexuality and that Colorado had no requisite law.
Colorado legalized gay marriages two years later, in 2014. The Supreme Court of the United States has also effectively legalized such marriages, as a fundamental right, in the Obergefell v. Hodges 576 US I 2015.
While Mullins and Craig bought their cake from another bakery for their celebration, they also complained to the Civil Rights Commission in the state of Colorado citing discrimination against sexual orientation. Colorado is among the twenty-one states in the country to have an Anti-Discrimination Act that prohibits any business dealing directly or indirectly with the public from any form of discrimination on grounds of religion, gender, race and sexual orientation. The complaint led to a lawsuit titled Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop.
The original lawsuit was decided on by a lower court, finding Phillips and his business in violation of the statutes of the Anti-Discrimination Act. The state ordered Masterpiece to not only provide their services and sell their goods to homosexual couples but also to change the company policies and initiate appropriate staff training needed to ensure there is no form of discrimination. Masterpiece filed for a review against the ruling but was turned down by the Court of Appeals.
In response to the court order, Masterpiece has shut down its wedding cake business and has refused to change its company policies or how it does business. Jack Phillips turned to the Supreme Court of Colorado. The higher court chose not to consider the appeal. Masterpiece then filed a petition with the Supreme Court of the United States for a review where the case is listed as Masterpiece Cake Shop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The petition is presently pending before the highest court of the land wherein Jack Phillips and his legal counsel have argued that by compelling the business to sell its products or offer its services in a manner that goes against the religious beliefs of an individual, the state was effectively withholding the exercise of the First Amendment, which assures the right to free speech and also the right to freely practice one’s religion. The highest court heard oral arguments in December 2017 and is expected to decide on the case by the end of its term.