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Supreme Court takes on new clash of gay rights, religion

27 June 2017

The Supreme Court will hear the case of a Colorado bakery who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Charlie Craig and David Mullins filed a complaint under Colorado's anti-discrimination laws after Phillips told them in 2012 he wouldn't make them a wedding cake due to his religious objections to gay marriage. They'd planned to marry in MA, since same-sex marriage wasn't legal nationwide at the time, and hold a reception in Colorado.

Phillips says that he has the right, under the First Amendment's Free Exercise clause, to refuse a customer who would force him to violate his religious beliefs.

The case will be a major test of a clash between laws that ban businesses open to the public from discriminating based on sexual orientation and claims of religious freedom.

The opinions expressed in this article are exclusively those of the author and are not necessarily those of World Religion News.

The Court will hear the case in its next term beginning in October.

But while LGBTQ rights groups like Lambda cheered the court's decision in Arkansas, they were disappointed that justices chose to review the decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

"The constitution guarantees me the right to practice my faith, my religion, anywhere, any time", Phillips said in 2015.

The justices issued an unsigned opinion reversing an Arkansas high court ruling that upheld the law. When a baker makes a wedding cake, is he or she declaring support for the couple's marriage?

In April of 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear Phillips' appeal, prompting an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in July 2016.

In the cake case, Charlie Craig and David Mullins approached Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a cake for their wedding reception. That solution would've been eminently sensible since the court has never held that commercial businesses have a constitutional right to discriminate against a certain class of customers.

The suburban Denver baker argues that he did not turn away the gay couple in 2012 because they were gay, but because their marriage violated his religious belief. Washington's state supreme court ruled unanimously in February that a florist violated state law by refusing to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding.

AU's brief was filed through our Protect Thy Neighbor project, which seeks to stop religion-based discrimination against LGBTQ people and others.

After losing the long-running court case previous year, bakers Melissa and Aaron Klein were ordered to pay $135,000 in costs and damages.

The brief also said Craig and Mullins could purchase a wedding cake from another bakery.