Religion is no reason to refuse gay clientele, appellate court rules in bakery case

August 13, 2015

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Wedding cake with groom figures on top.

Wedding cake with groom figures on top.

DENVER (Reuters) - A baker in suburban Denver cannot cite his religious beliefs in refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday, backing a lower court that decided he had illegally discriminated against the two men.

The decision follows a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that legalized gay marriage nationwide.

David Mullins and Charlie Craig had said it was "offensive and dehumanizing" when Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips told them his Christian beliefs prevented him from baking the cake when they visited his business in 2012.

The couple was wed in Massachusetts but wanted to celebrate their nuptials with friends in Colorado. At the time, Colorado allowed civil unions but did not permit marriage between same-sex couples.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint on behalf of Mullins and Craig, and in December 2013 Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer found that the baker had violated a state law barring discrimination at public accommodations based on race, gender or sexual orientation.

Phillips countered that requiring his business to provide such a cake violated his rights to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission affirmed Spencer's decision and required the cake shop to take remedial measures including comprehensive staff training and the filing of quarterly compliance reports. Phillips appealed.

In its opinion on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals said the state's Anti Discrimination Act, known as CADA, clearly prohibits businesses from refusing to serve customers based on their sexual orientation.

It said the bakery had argued that wedding cakes inherently convey a celebratory message about marriage, and that the commission's order therefore conflicted with the baker's beliefs.

"We disagree," the appeals court wrote.

"Nothing in the record supports the conclusion that a reasonable observer would interpret Masterpiece's providing a wedding cake for a same-sex couple as an endorsement of same-sex marriage rather than a reflection of its desire to conduct business in accordance with Colorado's public accommodations law," it added.

It said the bakery remains free to continue espousing its beliefs, including opposition to gay marriage.

"However, if it wishes to operate as a public accommodation and conduct business within the State of Colorado, CADA prohibits it from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation," the court wrote.


  1. He should stop offering wedding cakes for anyone. The gays obviously can’t find other bakeries that welcome their business…they always seem to walk into a bakery that hates the idea of gay marriage…..and then proceed to ruin the baker’s means of making a living. Its a shame that there are only 3 bakeries in the United States.

  2. There have been some 300,000 to 400,000 same-sex marriage is in this country. According to you, all but three of them have gone without incident, without a certain classes so-called Christian claiming that they have the right to discriminate on the basis of religious belief.

    We have laws at every level of government which forbid discrimination on the beasts of religious belief. And the vast majority of people seem to have no problem with it. The small minority that does only has that problem when it comes to behave decently, amicably, politely, and without religious bigotry towards people they despise.

    Very telling. Why, you’d almost think it has nothing to do with sincere religious belief at all.

  3. In a culture war battle, both sides are equally in need of the opponent and both sides are caught into the idea that one side is right and the other side is wrong.

    They are both wrong – they are both intolerant and refuse to get along in a society large enough for both of them. Personally, I think the baker can simply sell the cake, but I see his point and he’s entitled to it. Leave him alone. The gay couple can buy a cake elsewhere – they don’t need to press the issue and neither do straight liberals who take up the cause just to fight their culture war.

    The issue is divisive and both sides are behaving divisively. Both lose.

  4. Too much thought, Ben. Just go to another bakery and order a cake. Everyone has rights.

  5. All of you who feel the couple should just go to another baker have likely never experienced the humiliation of being told to your face, “I will not serve you because I regard your very being as subhuman and I despise who and what you are and will not sell you my product or service so get out. ” That offense should not go unpunished regardless of who ultimately bakes the cake. You also presume that specialty bakeries are all over the place. They are not. Especially in small towns and rural areas. Should they be required to put up signs saying we don’t serve LGBT weddings? They should be required to put that on their application for their business license and the license should be denied as a protection to the public.

  6. Too much thought is indeed the enemy of religious exceptionalism, dominionism, and bigotry.

  7. This was directed at Dominic, and didn’t show up where it was supposed to.

  8. We have laws that every level of government which forbid discrimination on the basis of religious belief. Why is this an exception? Claiming that is an exception simply underlines why we have these laws in the first place. My suspicion is that if you went to someone who is operating the public business, and was told “we don’t serve your kind here Due to our sincere religious beliefs””…

    You would be screaming discrimination.

    Why should gay people have to walk into a store, expecting service, and be told, “you’re going to be an exception to the laws that govern all of us, because I, as a certain class and so-called Christian, am Too stupid, too unsavvy in business, and too self-righteous to say something as simple as ‘i’m booked.’ “

  9. Separate but equal, where have we heard that before Dominic?

    Jeez you guys even recycle the same arguments racists used.

  10. Mike, you are full of crap. Nobody should have to navigate through the potential prejudices of store owners to have goods or services sold to them in open commerce. You are advocating segregation in the most crassest form. We had that junk already. It was nonsense 50 years ago, it remains so.

    There is no such thing as well intentioned discrimination. It is always a malicious act and doesn’t deserve respect or excuses.

    The bakers acted badly and compounded it with terrible excuses and wasting judicial resources. Eff them, their well orchestrated but frivolous legal support, and the right wingnut PR engines which will dishonestly portray them as martyrs.

  11. Several thoughts: Gay men and women need to open bakeries, and sell only to gay people having weddings. Then the naturally inclined men and women seeking a wedding cake can go there and be refused. And if they feel inclined to do so, then sue the gay bakery. The other side of the coin is would a gay couple actually eat the cake the baker made for them after being forced to do so? I don’t think I would. Of course in reality all of this in merely in your face challenges by the oddball Leftists, who use these tactics to forward their strange agenda. That is why the people of natural orientation need to keep up the civil disobedience; that is the only way to reverse the challenge of the in your face Leftists.

  12. Well that and your desire to have segregated marketplaces.

  13. Its amazing that the only argument the anti-gay crowd could come up with is the same ones used for supporting segregation.

    Separate but equal marketplaces, nonsense about freedom of association. You even have the Southern Baptist Convention supporting such efforts. Jeez, talk about taking your cues from history’s losers.

  14. Again, Greg, you misstate the problem in your zeal to make gay people wrong–and worse, malevolent. But that Is your style, isn’t it?

    NO ONE is interested in forcing anyone to bake a cake. I wouldn’t eat such a cake, let alone pay for it. I’m not interested in giving bigots my money. What I am interested in is being treated politely, respectfully, and within the law. If these cake martyrs don’t want gay money, there are plenty of legal ways not to take it. Declaring the right to discriminate on the basis of religious belief is not one of them.

    And if they are too stupid not to do it legally, then they deserve whatever consequences they prefer.

    as for your gay example, I sincerely doubt any gay vendor– and easily 1/3 of wedding vendors are gay– would want to turn down money from a qualified client.


    We’re not looking for reasons to discriminate, to turn away business, to harm people, to judge them.


  15. Again, riding the coat tails of the Black civil rights movement….of which no similarity exists. Bakers can refuse to make gay wedding cakes just as they can refuse to make cakes in the shape of male genitals or women’s breasts. Or should they be forced to do that also to satisfy the rights of the sexually immature?

  16. So extending the legal logic, I should be able to go into a Jewish kosher restaurant and demand they serve me a non kosher sandwich since their religious beliefs don’t matter but as the customer my desires trump their religious limitations.

  17. No Dominic, you are riding the coattails of the segregationists. People like yourself are taking cues from their playbook and USING THE EXACT SAME ARGUMENTS.

    Store owners who have businesses open to the general public do not get to deny goods and services on the basis of the customer themselves. Especially ones they would provide to anyone else.

    “Bakers can refuse to make gay wedding cakes just as they can refuse to make cakes in the shape of male genitals or women’s breasts.”

    But that is not what we are talking about. Colorado already had that case and the customer lost. Plus they found no violation of the state anti-discrimination law. That wasn’t what happened here. The triers of fact here (the Administrative Court) already determined that was not a case of “special request”. You have to either flat out lie or ignore material facts to support your argument.

    Do you think a Nazi baker has a right to refuse to serve a Jewish customer.? You seem to think so.

  18. No it isn’t. In fact that issue came up in the case and its appeal. It was determined not a “special request”. The customers were looking to buy something the store sold to customers on a regular basis. The issue here was the customers themselves, not the cake.

    The same state courts already had a case where someone tried to claim the business’s refusal to honor their offensive special request was discrimination. It was tossed out. That whole line of argument is deeply brain-dead anyway. Vendors dealing with outrageous requests don’t run afoul of anti-discrimination laws.

    By the skewed logic the proponents of discrimination here want to apply, A Nazi baker can rely on their “deep personal conviction” to refuse to serve a Jewish customer.

  19. Last time I checked there are Italian, Polish, African, Chinese, Japanese, etc., restaurants. People always tend to separate themselves by one classification or another. So it is no big deal to talk about gay bakeries, or gay restaurants. Birds of a feather, tend to flock together. So why not do as everyone else does, and brag about who you are by opening a business with your label on the sign. For example, a gay person can open up a restaurant called, Egrola Gay, or a bakery called, Independence Gay Bakery. Of course the clientele would be mostly gay, but that is how the big ball bounces.

  20. Ben, nobody would turn down anyone coming into their bakery if they only asked for a cake baked, or cookies, or other. The issue is the militant Leftists who go in there and make a big sloppy scene, going on and on about how they are getting married, and want this Christian baker to violate his Faith to participate in another man’s sins. If you wish to live your life they way you do, fine. But don’t expect any practicing Christian to approve of that lifestyle. It is simply a violation of the Faith, as is Fornication, as is Adultery, and so on. My hope is that you turn to God, and ask Him to lead you to Truth. That is my position. Or for that matter, ask Blessed Mary to lead you to her Son. She takes those requests very seriously. Christians have one intention: to lead all people to our Lord, and ultimately to heaven. We are all sinners, but must strive to be holy in this life, especially when experiencing temptation.

  21. So the solution to the bakery issue, like the Jewish non kosher request, is to have standard cakes for sale, with no descriptions on them, at all, for anyone. People come in, order a standard cake, and they are given an icing pen to write their own names on it once they get home. That would be the solution, as is the case of the standard kosher items for sale in the Jewish deli.

  22. You just made up an entire story about imaginary gay leftists and how awful they are. Having created your straw man, as you so frequently do, you proceed to knock it down with all of the force of a powder puff personality.

    God long ago led me to a simple truth: it is highly unlikely there is a god, and if there is, it certainly isn’t this idol of yours that YOU call God.

    Perhaps your God will lead you to a simple truth: this is about prejudice, not about God. It isn’t about morality, and certainly not about the immorality of what has been done to gay people in the name of the God who is love for 2000 years. Your beliefs about gay people are not about truth, but about prejudice. Your belief that anyone who is Christian and doesn’t believe as you do is simply that: your belief.

    Maybe you should pray to Mary to lead YOU to Jesus. Maybe you can be someone who doesn’t judge others, who doesn’t throw stones, who doesn’t mistake hate for love.

    But probably not.

  23. Well of course, Greg. how perceptive you. It’s the same cake they sell to EVERYONE. No one is asking for gay wedding cake. Whatever that might be, just like to one is asking for the bakers permission, approval, support, or participation in their wedding. Thats just the fanatasy of the cake martyrs, like the one where God is going to reward them for being martyrs, by which I mean uncivil, prejudiced, and moralizing busybodies.


    as a matter of fact, I have been to over 1000 weddings. In all of that time, I saw perhaps only two or three wedding cakes that had ANY inscription on them whatsoever. And in those three examples, only one was an actual wedding cake. and if I recall properly, the inscription had more to do with the football fantasies of the couple than it had to do with them. The other two were groom’s cakes, which is a southern tradition.

  24. I’m sorry, Ben, but I’ve read all the scenes of both the gay folks demanding gay wedding and other cakes with inscriptions on them, as well as from the other side, where individuals were refused for not baking anti-gay cakes, with inscriptions. Bakers were right in my opinion to refuse all of them. They were only there for a confrontation.

  25. Well, here is where you get to provide some citations. But you won’t. You never do.

    The ones from “the other side” were deliberately provocative. The ones from the gay side were simply asking for cakes.

  26. Oh come on Ben, the gay men wanted a custom gay rainbow added on top of everything else.

  27. Wow, you have gone full retard Greg1.

    So you are saying Italian, Polish, African, Chinese, Japanese, etc., restaurants only serve Italian, Polish, African, Chinese, Japanese, etc., customers?


    That is your argument here?

    Still looking for excuses for separate but equal (really inferior) marketplaces. You parrot the arguments of die-hard racists and you get annoyed when it is pointed out.

  28. So the solution is to follow the anti-discrimination laws as given. Treat all customers alike no matter what kind of people they are.

    Asking for something a store does not sell does not run afoul of anti-discrimination laws. As arguments go, it is nonsensical beyond belief. So ridiculous that one believes that the only reason it is used is as concession that facts will never support their desire to discriminate.

    Since anyone with half a brain can come up with why “special requests” are different from discriminatory conduct, one can only conclude the argument exists only so you have something to say. To avoid admitting just how indefensible such blatantly discriminatory conduct is.

  29. I’m saying it is time to be proud of what make you the person you are. If Polish, then proclaim it from the rooftops, if gay, then start a gay bakery. When most ethnic restaurants first opened, it was to serve the local community, which mostly consisted of the families from the neighborhood. And you might not know this, Larry, but the cities used to be separated by ethnic origin (Italian section, Chinese section, etc.) And, I might add, there is nothing wrong with that. You, then, have gone bonkers in your out of bounds response.

  30. You are really losing hold on reality here.

    Many of those neighborhoods were ethnic enclaves due to discrimination. Including your Italian, Irish and Jewish neighborhoods. Its telling that once those groups started to be considered “white” they dispersed. It wasn’t until about the last 30 or so years that those kinds of places reflected simply family based demographic expansion.

    Of course the exception was black neighborhoods which were controlled by force of law and terror. Asians faced similar segregation in the US but it is less well known. Racism still plays a major role in the demographics of much of the US. Redlining was not declared illegal until about a generation ago.

    “cities used to be separated by ethnic origin (Italian section, Chinese section, etc.) And, I might add, there is nothing wrong with that”

    So now you are extolling legalized segregation?!?!

    And you have the nerve to get indignant when I talk about parallels between you and racists of yore.

  31. “When most ethnic restaurants first opened, it was to serve the local community, which mostly consisted of the families from the neighborhood”

    1. That was never true. They served whomever walked in the door and was interested in the food served.

    2 They never purposefully denied service to people outside their group. In fact the successful places always welcomed outsider businesses.

    3 “Ethnic” neighborhoods which were not black or asian were far more mixed and fluid than you realize. Especially since many immigrant groups tended to arrive in the US at the same periods of time. Therefore many groups settle in the same areas.

    4. Separate but equal marketplaces will never be an intelligent argument.

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