A victory for gay rights has resulted in a loss for religious freedom as a Colorado judge has ruled that Jack Phillips, the owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, must serve same-sex couples despite his religious beliefs opposing gay marriage. According to Fox News on December 6, the baker will also face fines if he continues to turn gay couples away.
The ruling does toe the line between religious freedom and civil rights, but in this case the act of discrimination played a key role in the judge's decision as Phillips turned away a couple based on their sexual orientation.
According to Judge Robert N. Spencer, "the disputed facts show that Respondents (Phillips) discriminated against Complainants because of their sexual orientation by refusing to sell them a wedding cake for their same-sex marriage."
The incident occurred last year when David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited the baker to order a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. Phillips told the couple that he could not serve them because of his religious beliefs. He didn't deny any other service to the couple, he just didn't want to service them a wedding cake because he did not believe in gay marriage.
Both Mullins and Craig immediately filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division sitting the treatment as both "offensive and dehumanizing" as the incident dampened what was supposed to be a joyous occasion.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado called the ruling a victory:
"While we all agree that religious freedom is important, no one's religious beliefs make it acceptable to break the law by discriminating against prospective customers. No one is asking Masterpiece's owners to change his beliefs, but treating gay people differently because of who they are is discrimination plain and simple."
But Nicolle Martin, who represented Phillips, believes the ruling sends a different message, one that serves against the "protection of freedom of expression". She said in a statement:
"America was founded on the fundamental freedom of every citizen to live and work according to their beliefs. Forcing Americans to promote ideas against their will undermines our constitutionally protected freedom of expression and our right to live free."
She found the ruling an example of gay rights trumping religious rights. Judge Spencer countered that explaining that Phillips' free speech rights were not violated and that there was no evidence that making cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies would hurt the baker's business.
Same-sex marriage has been banned in the state of Colorado since 2006 but in March 2013, the Colorado General Assembly passed legislation for civil unions. In other states where gay marriage is legal, there has been a boost in business for wedding vendors.
As for the couple, David and Charlie were married in Provincetown, Mass in 2012 and had a great cake.