In Lakewood, Colorado, Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, had won a partial victory in a 2018 Supreme Court case for refusing to design a wedding cake for a gay couple on account of his own religious beliefs. Now again, he finds himself being the subject of another case regarding state discrimination laws for refusing to bake a birthday cake for a trans woman.
I asked for a simple birthday cake; pink cake with blue frosting. The baker admitted the cake has no inherent meaning and would make the exact same cake for any other customers. The baker refuses to make any cake that celebrates me because I am trans. https://t.co/Zh1vRBboNZ
— autumn scardina (@AutumnScardina) June 18, 2021
On June 15, Judge A. Bruce Jones of the Denver District Court said that the refusal to bake a custom birthday cake for a transgender person is in violation of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). Autumn Scardina had requested a birthday cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate her gender transition on her birthday. Phillips was fined $500, the maximum fine for violation of the CADA.
According to court documents, Phillips denied the cake only after learning what the colors symbolized, even though they had already agreed to bake a pink cake with blue frosting. During the trial in March, he testified that he did not think someone could change their gender, and he would not celebrate "somebody who thinks that they can."
"His religious beliefs prevent him from creating a custom cake celebrating a transition from male to female because expressing that message -- that such a transition is possible and should be celebrated -- would violate his religious convictions," according to court documents.
During his 2018 Supreme Court case, he argued for his First Amendment rights for religious freedom. However, in this case, Judge Jones said that baking and decorating a cake in the style requested by a customer is not a form of "compelled speech," which would mean his First Amendment rights were not an issue. Instead, the problem was with the meaning the cake was given rather than with the cake itself.
Kristen Waggoner, general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, the group representing Phillips, said in a statement, "Radical activists and government officials are targeting artists like Jack because they won't promote messages on marriage and sexuality that violate their core convictions."
John McHugh, one of Scardina's attorneys, said, "This is about a business that is open to the public that simply says to an entire class of people in the community that your identity, who you are, is something that is objectionable."
During Phillips's trial in 2012, he had said he would be happy to make other baked goods, but he cannot create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. "I was very hurt at the time, but as things progressed, I kept hearing him say that this wasn't about the individual; it was about the religious nature of the marriage ceremony," Scardina said. "So when I heard him say he would be happy to make a birthday cake, I decided to take him up on that offer."
"I have tremendous respect for (Phillips) as a human. I think he's entitled to his religious beliefs," Scardina said. "I share many of those religious beliefs, and I think we agree far more than we disagree; however, I've always felt that he doesn't appreciate that basic principle."