SCOTUS To Hear Case Of Bakery That Refused To Make Wedding Cake For Gay Couple

Image courtesy of Ben Sutherland

The owner of a Colorado bakery who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple back in 2012 will have his day in the highest court in the land, after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to hear his appeal.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled in Dec. 2013 that the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver had discriminated against two men — who had sought a wedding cake — because of their sexual orientation, in violation of the state’s anti-discrimination law. That public accommodation regulation prohibits any business that is open to the public from denying service to customers based on their race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.

The shop owner had argued that he was a cake artist, and that the First Amendment overrides Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, thus allowing him to refuse to whip up a custom wedding cake.

A Colorado appeals court ruled against him [PDF] in 2015, however, finding that the CLR’s order requiring Masterpiece “not to discriminate against potential customers because of their sexual orientation does not force it to engage in compelled expressive conduct in violation of the First Amendment.”

The cake shop owner didn’t give up however, noting in a Supreme Court brief filed in July 2016 [PDF], the shop owner’s lawyers claim that he’s more than happy to create “other items for gay and lesbian clients,” but that his faith requires him to “use his artistic talents to promote only messages that align with his religious beliefs.”

Because of this, he “declines lucrative business by not creating goods that contain alcohol or cakes celebrating Halloween and other messages his faith prohibits, such as racism, atheism, and any marriage not between one man and one woman.” The filing notes that the couple could have “easily obtained a free wedding cake with a rainbow design from another bakery.”

“This is not about the people who asked for a cake, it’s about the message a custom-made cake communicates,” an attorney for the baker said today. “If these were off-the-shelf cakes, there would be no problem. These are custom-designed artistic projects that express a vision, as celebrity chefs Duff Goldman and Buddy Velastro have rightly explained about their own works. Artistic expression has always enjoyed broad protection under the Constitution.”

A lawyer for the couple responded in another filing [PDF] with the court, that it’s “no answer” to say the two men could shop somewhere else for their wedding cake, “just as it was no answer in 1966 to say that African-American customers could eat at another restaurant.”

The Supremes will hear the case this fall. Their decision could effect laws on the books in other states in the U.S. that prohibit discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, notes the Los Angeles Times: Because although there is no federal law requiring businesses to serve all customers without regard to their sexual orientation, 21 states do have such rules on the books.