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Masterpiece Cakeshop Information
For years, Jack Phillips has claimed that he has no objection to providing cakes, including birthday cakes, for LGBTQ individuals. Taking him at his word, Ms. Scardina ordered a birthday cake. The design for this birthday cake, chosen by Ms. Scardina, was personally significant as it reflected her identity as a transgender woman. Nothing about the design of the cake (a pink cake with blue frosting) or the event (a birthday) violates any religious belief held by Mr. Phillips. In fact, Masterpiece Cakeshop agreed to make this cake for her. It was only after she identified herself as transgender that Masterpiece Cakeshop decided it had a religious objection to making a birthday cake for her. And it was at that point that Mr. Phillips’ wife hung up without offering any other goods or services. Ms. Scardina’s existence as a transgender woman was all Masterpiece Cakeshop needed to know to deny service to her.
As the United States Supreme Court recently explained in the previous Masterpiece case, religious objections ‘do not allow business owners … to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services’ and that it is ‘unexceptional that Colorado law can protect gay persons, just as it can protect other classes of individuals in acquiring whatever products and services they choose on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public.’ Under these well-settled legal principles, the Colorado Civil Rights Division appropriately found probable cause that Masterpiece Cakeshop’s refusal to sell a birthday cake to Ms. Scardina. violated Colorado law.
In response, Masterpiece Cakeshop recently filed a lawsuit in federal court. This lawsuit confirms that Mr. Phillips’ prior claims to being open to LGBTQ individuals was always false. Masterpiece Cakeshop asks the court for nothing less than a complete exemption from Colorado’s “unexceptional” civil rights law. In the 1989 case of Employment Division v. Smith, Justice Antonin Scalia warned about this precise outcome if individuals like Mr. Phillips are allowed to use the veil of religion to object to laws of this type, noting that to ‘make an individual’s obligation to obey such a law contingent upon the laws coincidence with his religious beliefs’ would allow that person ‘to become a law unto himself’ which ‘contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense.’