A Colorado cake maker must sell its wares to gay couples, the state’s civil rights commission ruled Friday.
In 2012, Jack Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakes in Lakewood, refused to sell cakes to Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, a same-sex couple. Mullin and Craig were to be married in Massachusetts but wanted a cake for a reception at their home in a Denver suburb.
As he had done with other same-sex couples in the past Phillips refused to sell the goods, saying that he is a devout Christian and doesn’t approve of same-sex marriage.
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Mullins and Craig sued Phillips citing the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act. It bars businesses from refusing service based on race, sex or sexual orientation. Though gay marriage is still illegal in Colorado, the commission cited the act in its ruling.
“I can believe anything I want, but if I’m going to do business here, I’d ought to not discriminate against people,” Commissioner Raju Jaram said, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
“Religious freedom is undoubtedly an important American value, but so is the right to be treated equally under the law free from discrimination,” said Amanda C. Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Everyone is free to believe what they want, but businesses like Masterpiece Cakeshop cannot treat some customers differently than others based on who they are as people.”
“No one should ever have to walk into a store and wonder if they will be turned away just because of who they are,” Mullins said, according to the ACLU.
The state’s civil rights commission made other demands in their verbal ruling. Masterpiece Cakes must also undertake staff training and issue quarterly reports for two years in order to ensure that it is complying with Friday’s decision, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.
“Masterpiece Cakeshop has willfully and repeatedly considered itself above the law when it comes to discriminating against customers, and the Commission has rightly determined otherwise,” said ACLU of Colorado attorney Sara R. Neel.
Phillips, who might appeal the decision, was not backing down.
“I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” Phillips told reporters after Friday’s decision.
Whether or not businesses can deny service to gays citing religious beliefs has been a hot-button issue recently. Bills were proposed in several states that would have allowed the right to refuse service. The most covered one came in Arizona, though Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it at the last minute.
A quick online search shows that Lakewood has 19 bakeries or companies that sell baked goods. That includes Walmart, several national franchises and Masterpiece Cakes.