Add another layer to the legal drama surrounding the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple — and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit against the state alleging religious discrimination.
This time, the cake at the center of the controversy was not for a wedding. In June 2017, Colorado lawyer Autumn Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop to request a custom cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside.
The occasion, Scardina told the bakery’s employees, was to celebrate her birthday, as well as the seventh anniversary of the day she had come out as transgender.
Masterpiece Cakeshop ultimately refused Scardina’s order on religious grounds.
“Phillips declined to create the cake with the blue-and-pink design because it 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,” the complaint stated.
More than a year later, on June 28, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that there was probable cause that Phillips had discriminated against Scardina on the basis of gender identity.
In refusing to make a cake for the transgender woman, Phillips had “denied her equal enjoyment of a place of public accommodation,” Aubrey Elenis, director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, wrote in her ruling.
The commission’s latest decision came two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled narrowly in favor of Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case that had originated when Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012.
As The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes reported, the 7-to-2 Supreme Court decision was in favor of Phillips — but focused on his treatment by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and did not necessarily set a standard for future similar cases:
“The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, adding that the commission’s decision that the baker violated the state’s anti-discrimination law must be set aside.
But Kennedy acknowledged that the decision was more of a start than a conclusion to the court’s consideration of the rights of those with religious objections to same-sex marriage and the rights of gay people, who “cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.”
Future cases that raise those issues “must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market,” he wrote.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal nonprofit that funded Phillips’s previous case, said Colorado officials were “doubling down on their anti-religious hostility” in their treatment of the baker, according to a statement regarding this new lawsuit, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Elenis.
“You would think that a clear Supreme Court decision against their first effort would give them pause,” the group stated. “But it seems like some in the state government are hellbent on punishing Jack for living according to his faith. If that isn’t hostility, what is?”
The group pointed out that Scardina’s request for a blue-and-pink cake came on the same day — June 26, 2017 — that the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, indicating Phillips had been “targeted” by some Colorado citizens.
“The first time around, it looked like Colorado was biased against people of faith,” the group stated. “Now it just looks like the state is biased against people named ‘Jack Phillips.’ In moving ahead on this new case, the government is yet again confirming that it applies its law in an arbitrary and unequal way, which the Supreme Court has already said it cannot do.”
A representative for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission said that the commission could not comment on pending or active litigation and, by law, could not verify or disclose the existence of charges detailed by Phillips.