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A wedding cake is seen at a reception for same-sex couples at The Abbey in West Hollywood, Calif., July 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson) A wedding cake is seen at a reception for same-sex couples at The Abbey in West Hollywood, Calif., July 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)  

Wedding cake maker ordered not to discriminate against gay couples

An administrative law judge has ordered a Denver cake maker to serve wedding cakes to gay couples, regardless of the man’s religious beliefs.

Judge Robert N. Spencer ruled that wedding-related businesses that refuse service to gay couples are discriminating, according to the Associated Press. He ordered Masterpiece Cakeshop to “cease and desist” from discriminating against gay couples who order cakes to celebrate their civil unions.

Charles Craig and David Mullins, who were married in Massachusetts but who wanted to celebrate in Colorado, ordered a cake from owner Jack Phillips in July 2012. When Phillips discovered that the order was for a gay couple, he refused, saying their union violated his Christian beliefs.

Gay marriage is banned in Colorado by constitutional amendment, but the state legislature approved civil unions earlier this year. The difference between a union and a same-sex marriage in Colorado is largely semantic, although those who are joined in civil unions cannot file joint tax returns.

The civil union law does not provide exemptions for businesses who are opposed for religious reasons, despite attempts by Republicans to include them. Several people who testified against the bill said it didn’t offer enough protections for owners of businesses and organizations who are morally opposed to civil unions, saying it would violate their First Amendment rights.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, which worked on behalf of Craig and Mullins, said arguments about religious freedom shouldn’t be used as an excuse to discriminate.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental right in America and it’s something that we champion at the ACLU,” Mark Silverstein, ACLU’s legal director in Colorado, told the Associated Press in June. “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.”

If Masterpiece Cakeshop continues to refuse service to gay couples, it could face fines.

Spencer’s ruling follows another in New Mexico, where the state Supreme Court found a wedding photographer was wrong to refuse to take pictures of a gay couple, the AP reported. Another case is pending in Washington state against a florist who allegedly refused to work with a gay couple.

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