President Trump’s administration has sided with a Christian baker who refused to make a gay couple’s wedding cake because he claimed their marriage went against his religious beliefs.
Forcing Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, to bake a wedding cake for two men would be a violation of his constitutional rights, the Department of Justice declared on Thursday.
The baker is challenging a Colorado law that says he was wrong to have turned away Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who wanted a cake to celebrate their nuptials in 2012.
Phillips refused because his religion does not support same-sex marriage and said he should not be compelled to bake a cake that would specifically honor that.
Trump’s administration has sided Christian baker Jack Phillips (right). The Department of Justice said Thursday that forcing Phillips to make a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012 would be a violation of his constitutional rights
Phillips is challenging a Colorado law that says he was wrong to have turned away Charlie Craig and David Mullins (left and right), who wanted a cake to celebrate their nuptials in 2012. The baker refused because his religion does not support same-sex marriage
The Justice Department wrote in an amicus brief filed ahead of the case’s oral argument after the Supreme Court said in June it would hear the case.
A portion of the brief read: ‘Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights.
‘In the view of the United States, a … First Amendment intrusion occurs where a public accommodations law compels someone to create expression for a particular person or entity and to participate, literally or figuratively, in a ceremony or other expressive event.’
The legal fight broke out in 2012 when Phillips told Mullins and Craig that because of his Christian beliefs, his store’s policy was to deny service to customers wanting to purchase cakes to celebrate a same-sex wedding.
After the couple was turned away, they complained about the shop on Facebook, then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The state sided with the couple.
Phillips (pictured) said artisans can’t be compelled to produce works celebrating an event that violates the artist’s religion
The couple’s (pictured) lawyer said: ‘What the Trump administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate’
Phillips said artisans can’t be compelled to produce works celebrating an event that violates the artist’s religion.
The DOJ sided with him and added: ‘A custom wedding cake can be sufficiently artistic to qualify as pure speech, akin to a sculptural centerpiece. In short, a custom wedding cake is not an ordinary baked good; its function is more communicative and artistic than utilitarian.’
If Phillips wins the case, only businesses that engage in creative acts similar to making a cake would potentially be able to obtain similar exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, the department said.
‘What the Trump administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate,’ said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Louise Melling, who represents the couple.
The legal fight broke out after they visited Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop (pictured) in Denver in 2012. The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission
In recent months, the Trump administration has taken several legal and political positions to limit the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people, sharply reversing policies of former President Barack Obama.
In August, Trump signed a memorandum directing the U.S. military not to accept transgender men and women as recruits and halting the use of government funds for sex-reassignment surgeries for active personnel unless the process had already started.
The administration previously revoked landmark guidance to public schools saying transgender students should be able to use the bathrooms of their choice. In July, it told a U.S. appeals court that federal law does not ban discrimination against gay employees.