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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 8, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 36
DOJ files brief backing anti-Gay baker
Section One
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DOJ files brief backing anti-Gay baker

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an amicus brief on September 7 backing a Colorado baker who refused to provide a wedding cake for a Gay couple.

In 2012, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, located in Lakewood, Colorado, refused service to David Mullins and Charlie Craig, saying that his religion disapproved of same-sex marriage and that he was prohibited by his beliefs from assisting the couple's marriage.

Mullins and Craig resided in Colorado but were married in Massachusetts because same-sex marriage was not yet legal in their home state. They ordered a cake from Phillips to celebrate their wedding with friends after they returned home.

Phillips told CBS News that he opposed same-sex marriage so strongly that he would stop making wedding cakes altogether rather than make one for a Lesbian or Gay couple.

Mullins and Craig then complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled that the baker violated the state's public accommodations law, which prohibits businesses from refusing service on the basis of sex and sexual orientation, among other grounds.

In a subsequent court case, Phillips and his company were found guilty of violating the nondiscrimination law. He then appealed, lost again at the Colorado Court of Appeals, and finally brought the case to the US Supreme Court on the grounds of First Amendment free speech and religious freedom protections.

The high court declined to schedule hearings on the case, not once but 13 times. Then, on June 27 this year, it agreed to hear Phillips' appeal this fall.

The DOJ amicus brief advised the Supreme Court that US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his department support Phillips' claim that the First Amendment protects his right to refuse service to LGBT people on religious grounds.

Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, condemned the DOJ brief.

'This Justice Department has already made its hostility to the rights of LGBT people and so many others crystal clear,' she said in a statement.

'But this brief was shocking, even for this administration. What the Trump administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate. We are confident that the Supreme Court will rule on the side of equal rights, just as the lower courts have.'

According to Irwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California-Irvine, the 1990 Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Smith says that states may put limits on what people claim as a religious right as long as the statutes are 'neutral laws of general applicability' and not aimed at a specific religion.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia said publicly that he wanted to revisit that decision and undo the precedent it created, and his successor, Neil Gorsuch, is thought to have similar views.

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