Colorado court: Ruling stands that baker can't cite religion

AP News
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Posted: Apr 25, 2016 6:48 PM
Colorado court: Ruling stands that baker can't cite religion

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the case of a suburban Denver baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, letting stand a previous ruling that the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner must provide service despite his Christian beliefs.

Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who were refused service by baker Jack Phillips in 2012, applauded the development.

Craig said they persisted with the case throughout a complicated legal process because they felt it was important to set the precedent that discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation was not only wrong but illegal.

"We didn't want anyone to have to go through what we did," Craig said.

Attorney Nicolle Martin, who represents Phillips, said they had not yet decided whether to ask Colorado's highest court to reconsider, or approach the U.S. Supreme Court. Martin says she is surprised the Colorado court would not consider the case.

"This is a matter that affects all Americans, not just people of faith," Martin said.

The seven-member Colorado Supreme Court said in a brief announcement that it decided as a group not to take up the case.

However, Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice and Justice Nathan B. Coats would have considered hearing arguments in several areas, including whether applying Colorado's anti-discrimination law to force Phillips to "create artistic expression" in the form of a wedding cake violated his constitutional free speech rights.

Phillips declined to make a cake for Craig and Mullins, who were married in Massachusetts and planned a celebration in Colorado. The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled in December 2013 that Phillips discriminated against them and ordered him to change his store policy against making cakes for gay weddings or face fines. The Colorado Court of Appeals also ruled against him.

Phillips referred questions from The Associated Press to his lawyer Monday. He previously said he has no problem serving gay people at his store, but that making a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding would violate his Christian beliefs.

Such issues have been considered by courts and legislators across the country.

A new North Carolina law prevents local and state government from mandating protections for LGBT people in the private sector or at stores and restaurants. The law suffered a blow when a federal appeals court issued an opinion that threatens part of the law requiring students to use bathrooms in line with their gender at birth in public schools and universities.

Colorado lawmakers introduced a bill in February that would have blocked the state from taking any action that may burden a person's religious freedom unless it was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. A House committee indefinitely postponed discussion on the bill.

Mullins, part of the Colorado couple denied a wedding cake, said he saw moves like the North Carolina legislature's as exceptions.

"We really feel like America is moving in the direction of accepting LGBT people," Mullins told the AP.