The Colorado Court of Appeals today is scheduled to hear arguments in the case of Jack Phillips, a Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. The American Civil Liberties Union and the state’s Civil Rights Commission say Phillips violated Colorado’s civil rights law, which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But Phillips’s attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom say he was only expressing his constitutionally protected rights of free religion and expression.
We chatted over the phone with Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the couple that was turned away, to find out more about their desire to press this case despite a huge win for the gay rights movement last month, when the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right nationally. Here is the interview, lightly edited for space and clarity. (We are expecting to hear from Phillips after the arguments and will put up a similar post if and when we speak with him.)
Craig and Mullins had planned a wedding reception in Colorado in 2012 after getting married in Massachusetts but ran into trouble when they walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Would you just walk me through that day, when you walked into that cake shop?
Mullins: Actually, I’m going to dispel the question that a lot of people ask up front. The reason we went to Masterpiece Cakeshop was because the venue that was hosting our wedding reception had used him in the past and had recommended him to a lot of their clients. But we were their first gay reception, so the only reason we went to Masterpiece Cakeshop was because it was recommended to us.
One of the most interesting things about this was how quickly it happened. Charlie and I and Charlie’s mother went into Masterpiece Cakeshop. We had a binder of ideas for cake. We sat down with the owner, Jack Phillips. And within a couple of moments he asked me if the cake was for us, and we told him that it was, and he then told us he would not make a cake for a same-sex wedding. What followed was an incredibly awkward pregnant pause after which we got up and we left.
Tell me a little bit about how you felt walking out of there.
Mullins: We were mortified. We were truly embarrassed and hurt by this experience because neither of us had ever been turned away from a business before because of who we were.
Why didn’t you just go to another bakery? Why did you take the step of deciding to report the incident?
Mullins: Well, the reason we took the step of actually reporting this is because of the experience we had after we went home. We posted a message on Facebook letting our friends and family know what had happened to us, and we included the business’s phone number and asked that if people felt that the way we were treated was wrong to call the bakery and let them know that they thought this policy was wrong. About five hours later we discovered that the post had gone viral, and the next couple of days we started to be inundated by messages of support from across the nation and from across the world.
Defenders of Masterpiece Cakeshop and other vendors that have done this say you aren’t being turned away for who you are but because of their own religious objections, not to homosexuality necessarily but to same-sex marriage. Do you see that distinction?
Mullins: No, we do not see that distinction. I think the biggest thing here is when you are a business open to the public, you are required to serve all customers equally. And we strongly believe in the rights of people to practice their religious beliefs whatever they may be, but you can’t practice your beliefs in a way that excludes others from public life based on who they are. And in the end a cake shop is a business that is open to the public, and it is governed by civil laws and not religious laws.
The Supreme Court just delivered a huge victory for the gay rights movement, which will have pretty far-reaching effects. Did that at all affect your desire to see this all the way through?
Mullins: We’ve been committed to following this through to the end for a long time now. So as far as whether this has altered our decision to move forward, I can’t say that it has. But I will say that I do hope that the Supreme Court decision has raised awareness with the general public that treating same-sex couples this way is discriminatory and does put gay people on a lower rung in society than others.
Did you eventually get a cake from someone else?
Craig: Whenever we did the Facebook post, we actually had some offers from local bakeries that said they didn’t agree with what happened to us and that they would be glad to make our cake. We went with one of those bakers.
What kind of cake was it?
Craig: I guess we ended up making it a really complex cake. We did a chai mocha layer and — I don’t know.
I want to hear all the details here.
Mullins: So we had one layer that was white cake with layers of buttercream frosting. We had a layer of a chai cake, which was fascinating. We actually just asked if they would do that and they sort of thought about it and they said yes, we can do that. It sort of came out with a gingerbread taste. It was really good. Then we had a layer that was chocolate.
Here’s a picture of the vanilla-chai-chocolate cake, baked by Laura’s Bakery and Donuts, shot by Craig’s uncle John Thomas.