Court Battles

Court fines baker $500 for refusing to make gender transition cake

Camille Fine

A Denver court on Tuesday fined local bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop $500 after co-owner Jack Phillips refused to make a cake celebrating a transgender woman’s birthday and transition.

Autumn Scardina filed a lawsuit against Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2017, after the bakery refused to bake her a pink cake with blue frosting, symbolizing her gender transition.

Phillips testified that the bakery refused to bake the cake “based on the message they believed it would have conveyed – that a person can change genders and that a gender transition should be celebrated,” according to the ruling.

Phillips is the same baker who drew widespread attention as the subject of a 2012 lawsuit for refusing to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in 2018 that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which previously said Phillips should not have refused to serve the couple, violated his First Amendment rights.

On Wednesday, judge Bruce Jones of the Denver District Court ordered the bakery to pay Scardina $500 for violating Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA).

Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group, said Phillips will appeal the judge’s decision.

“We will appeal this decision and continue to defend the freedom of all Americans to peacefully live and work according to their deeply held beliefs without fear of punishment,” Waggoner wrote in a statement.

“Jack Phillips serves all people but shouldn’t be forced to create custom cakes with messages that violate his conscience,” she added.

Colorado officials in 2017 found that Phillips had violated state laws after he refused to bake a cake for Scardina.

The baker sued the state in response, contending that he was being punished for his religious beliefs. He and the state of Colorado settled in March 2019, agreeing not to continue pursuing the case.

In June 2019, however, Scardina decided to open a second lawsuit, arguing that the bakery violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act and the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.

Phillips called for the lawsuit to be dismissed earlier this year. The judge, however, ultimately handed down the ruling on Tuesday.

Jones, who was appointed by former Gov. Bill Ritter (D), stated in his ruling that the defendants “violated CADA’s prohibition against discrimination in a place of public accommodation” and ordered the bakery to pay $500.

The judge’s decision to fine Phillips sparked outrage among some GOP lawmakers, who came to the baker’s defense on Wednesday.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the decision “shameful,” an example of “religious persecution” and a “lawless disregard of binding Supreme Court precedent.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sounded a similar note, writing on Twitter that “The government persecution of Jack Phillips must end.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) also chimed in, arguing that Phillip’s First Amendment rights were being violated.

Tags Doug Lamborn Jack Phillips Ted Cruz Tom Cotton
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