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Colorado Anti-LGBTQ Baker Goes Back to Court Asking for Right to Discriminate

On Tuesday, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips returned to court to fight for his right to refuse services to LGBTQ customers. The Colorado baker, famous for being sued by a gay couple to whom he refused a wedding cake, climbed all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor in June. Now, he’s back — after the state of Colorado slapped him with a civil rights violation related to a transgender woman who he also declined to serve.

On the same day that the Supreme Court ruled on Phillips’ original case, Colorado attorney Autumn Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop and tried to order a cake for her gender-transition celebration.

“When I explained I am a transexual and that I wanted my birthday cake to celebrate my transition by having a blue exterior and a pink interior, they told me they will not make the cake based on their religious beliefs,” Scardina said in the complaint filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in July 2017.

This time, Phillips is suing the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for charging him with discrimination again. The baker is asking the state to drop the charge, to pay him $100,000 in damages, and to allow him the right to refuse service to LGBTQ people in the future based on his religious convictions.

“Jack serves all customers, and he is even happy to serve the attorney who lodged the complaint against him,” said Phillips’ senior attorney Jim Campbell of the Alliance Defending Freedom in a Monday press release. “But Jack doesn’t create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in conflict with his deeply held beliefs.”

Campbell said the Supreme Court once found the Colorado Civil Rights Commission “hostile” to Phillips and his anti-LGBTQ convictions, and that the agency “remains committed to treating him unequally and forcing him to express messages that violate his religious beliefs.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a conservative Christian law firm with thousands of affiliate attorneys nationwide. Due to the firm’s consistent involvement in anti-LGBTQ legal cases and policy (ADF created the model “student physical privacy” legislation that inspired anti-transgender bathroom bills around the country, for example), the firm has been designated an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Regardless of Phillips’ personal beliefs, Colorado state law prohibits discrimination in “public accommodations” on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as well as other protected classes like race and disability.

“Places of public accommodation include a restaurant, hospital, hotel, retail store and public transportation, among others,” reads a description on the state’s website. “Prohibited discriminatory practices in places of public accommodation must be based on certain protected classes and include these adverse actions: denial of service, terms and conditions, unequal treatment, failure to accommodate and retaliation.”

State law clearly bans the kind of discrimination Phillips has engaged in, but he’s asking for a religious loophole.

Colorado Deputy Attorney General LeeAnn Morrill told the court the civil rights commission didn’t mention religion in its filing against Phillips, and that the same commission has filed charges to protect people from discrimination based on bias against religious beliefs.

On Tuesday, Judge Scott T. Varholak of Colorado’s U.S. District Court refused Phillips’ wish for a preliminary injunction that would block the civil rights violation charge. The state is asking Varholak to dismiss the case, which he took “under advisement” and will rule on soon, according to court documents. In the meantime, both parties were instructed by the court to proceed; the state will move forward with its charges, and lawyers for Phillips will likely file a new motion for an injunction.

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