Counsel for Jack Phillips, the baker whose refusal to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex union led him to the Supreme Court, insisted a Colorado judge's ruling this week against him was a “repeat of earlier mistakes” made in separate decisions against Phillips that were eventually overturned.
District Judge A. Bruce Jones “got fundamental things wrong with the facts and the law” in ruling on Tuesday that Phillips violated a state anti-discrimination law when he refused to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition, according to attorney Jonathan Scruggs.
Jones ruled in favor of plaintiff Autumn Scardina, a Colorado attorney who sued Phillips after he refused to make the cake Scardina requested in 2017 citing his religious beliefs, finding that Phillips’s refusal violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. Jones’s ruling, which Phillips plans to appeal, requires the baker to pay a $500 fine.
“The anti-discrimination laws are intended to ensure that members of our society who have historically been treated unfairly, who have been deprived of even the every-day right to access businesses to buy products, are no longer treated as ‘others,’” Jones wrote in his decision. “This case is about one such product — a pink and blue birthday cake — and not compelled speech.”
Attorneys for Phillips argued, as they have before courts previously, that requiring their client to bake a cake conveying a message that violates his religious beliefs constitutes compelled speech and violates Phillip’s rights under the First Amendment.
“They are confusing this idea that, because Jack doesn’t want to convey a message he disagrees with, they think that violates the anti-discrimination law,” they said.
Scruggs, who is senior counsel and director of the Center for Conscience Initiatives at Alliance Defending Freedom which is representing Phillips, told the Washington Examiner: “The heart of this case is whether a person can be forced by the government to convey a message they disagree with.”
Jones was wrong to say in his ruling that Phillips “agreed that the bakery would make the same cake requested by Ms. Scardina for other customers,” said Scruggs, who added that Jones’s statement that Phillips has made pink and blue cakes “that recognize the cisgender status of an individual” illogically conflates those cakes with a gender transition cake.
“All Jack was saying was, ‘Look, I would provide birthday cakes for other people. I would provide pink and blue birthday cakes for other people as well. I just can’t celebrate — create a cake celebrating the gender transition,'" Scruggs said. "So it’s that design of the cake that matters.”
Phillips was sued under the same law and was subsequently found by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to have discriminated against a same-sex couple for declining to make a cake for a wedding ceremony in 2012.
The Supreme Court later ruled 7-2 in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that the commission violated the free exercise clause in ruling against Phillips.
Phillips and his legal team have repeatedly asserted he will serve any customer but that he will not convey all messages.
"And that's our entire argument — that it doesn't matter about the 'who.' It's about what is the message that it celebrates," Scruggs said.
John McHugh, Scardina's attorney, praised Jones's ruling and said that while he and his client respect Phillip's religious beliefs, they reject the defense's argument because "the message is tied to who the individual is."
"This isn't limited to Ms. Scardina or to wedding cakes. Mr. Phillips has an issue providing any cakes to LGBT people that reflect them as LGBT people," McHugh told the Washington Examiner. "He wants to offer a limited menu of the good that he sells to the public to LGBT people and that's just not what the law permits."
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman