Masterpiece Cakeshop Violates Civil Rights Law for Turning Away Gay Couple, Court Rules

rainbowflag_smDENVER—The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled today that a cake shop cannot refuse service to a gay couple because of who they are. The ruling comes on the heels of oral arguments from early July in a discrimination case brought by a same-sex couple against a cake shop that refused to sell them a cake for their wedding reception.

“Today is a proud day for equality and for upholding the law. In America, no one should be turned away from a shop or restaurant because of who they are or who they love,” said Ria Mar, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project, who argued the case. “When every lesbian or gay person, every woman, every person of color, every person of every faith can walk into a store, a bank, a hospital, and know that they will get the same service as everyone else, we will have won. Until then, we continue to fight for the equal treatment we all deserve. Today we can celebrate this big win.” [pullquote]“Today is a proud day for equality and for upholding the law. In America, no one should be turned away from a shop or restaurant because of who they are or who they love,” said Ria Mar, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project, who argued the case.[/pullquote]

In 2012, Colorado residents David Mullins and Charlie Craig, along with Charlie’s mother Deborah Munn, visited Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a wedding cake. Mullins and Craig planned to marry in Massachusetts and then celebrate with family and friends back home. Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips informed the couple that, because of his religious beliefs, it was his standard business practice to refuse to provide cakes to customers for same-sex weddings. Phillips has turned away several other couples for the same reason.

Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits businesses, such as Masterpiece Cakeshop, from refusing service based on factors including race, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado filed suit on behalf of Mullins and Craig in 2013. In December 2013, an administrative judge ruled that the bakery had illegally discriminated against the couple. In 2014, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission affirmed that ruling. Masterpiece Cakeshop appealed. [pullquote]“Masterpiece remains free to continue espousing its religious beliefs, including its opposition to same-sex marriage. However, if it wishes to operate as a public accommodation and conduct business within the State of Colorado, CADA prohibits it from picking and choosing its customers based on their sexual orientation.”—the court’s opinion[/pullquote]

According to the opinion, “Masterpiece remains free to continue espousing its religious beliefs, including its opposition to same-sex marriage. However, if it wishes to operate as a public accommodation and conduct business within the State of Colorado, CADA prohibits it from picking and choosing its customers based on their sexual orientation.”

When businesses and other institutions that serve the public have sought exemptions to laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the courts have held that businesses are required to comply with anti-discrimination laws. The courts have ruled without regard to whether LGBT people could have obtained the goods or service elsewhere.  Instead the courts have recognized the harm to equal opportunity if lesbian and gay people can be turned away from businesses otherwise open to the public because of who they are.

For more information about Charlie Craig and David Mullins v. Masterpiece Cakeshophttps://goo.gl/uLxFSx.

[From a News Release]

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