A gay couple recently married in Massachusetts filed a discrimination complaint against a Colorado bakery that refused to make them a wedding cake for their reception. The owner of the bakery cited his Christian beliefs when he refused the couple's business.
David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited the Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver last summer. After a few minutes of browsing, the bakery's owner, Jack Phillips, realized the cake was to celebrate the couple's wedding. Phillips quickly informed them that he wouldn't take their business because it violated his religious beliefs.
"We were all very upset, but I was angry and I felt dehumanized and mortified," Mullins told the Associated Press. Both he and Craig posted the story to Facebook, where it “caught fire” and spread to local news networks and blogs.
The ACLU eventually volunteered to pursue the case and, in the process of researching it, discovered two other gay couples who were refused a cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop. Both couples wrote affidavits supporting the complaint.
"Religious freedom is a fundamental right in America and it's something that we champion at the ACLU," said Mark Silverstein, the legal director of the group in Colorado, which filed the complaint on behalf of the couple. "We are all entitled to our religious beliefs and we fight for that. But someone's personal religious beliefs don't justify breaking the law by discriminating against others in the public sphere."
Philips's attorney, Nicolle Martin, told the Associated Press she disagrees.
"We don't believe that this is a case about commerce. At its heart, this is a case about conscience," said Nicolle Martin. She said the matter is important because it will serve as an example for future cases across the country as more gay couples gain legal recognitions for their relationships.
"It brings it to the forefront. I just don't think that we should heighten one person's beliefs over and above another person's beliefs," she said.
"It would force him to choose between his conscience and a paycheck. I just think that's an intolerable choice," Martin said
The Colorado Attorney General's office filed a formal complaint on behalf of the couple last week.
If Phillips loses and refuses to comply with the court order, which is asking the bakery to "cease and desist" its practice of refusing gay couples' business, he could face up to a year in jail and a $500 fine per case.
The case is scheduled for a hearing in front of Colorado's Civil Rights Commission in September.
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