US: Baker claims religious persecution again — this time after denying cake for transgender woman

Add another layer to the legal drama surrounding the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple — and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit against the state alleging religious discrimination.

This time, the cake at the center of the controversy was not for a wedding. In June 2017, Colorado lawyer Autumn Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop to request a custom cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside.

The occasion, Scardina told the bakery’s employees, was to celebrate her birthday, as well as the seventh anniversary of the day she had come out as transgender. Masterpiece Cakeshop ultimately refused Scardina’s order on religious grounds.

“Phillips declined to create the cake with the blue-and-pink design because it would have celebrated messages contrary to his religious belief that sex — the status of being male or female — is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed,” the complaint stated.

More than a year later, on June 28, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that there was probable cause that Phillips had discriminated against Scardina on the basis of gender identity.

In refusing to make a cake for the transgender woman, Phillips had “denied her equal enjoyment of a place of public accommodation,” Aubrey Elenis, director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, wrote in her ruling. Read more via Washington Post

That Same Christian Baker In Colorado Is Back In Court — This Time For Turning Away A Transgender Customer

[...] The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, known as CADA, bans places of public accommodation — such as shops and restaurants — from discriminating against customers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. As such, the commission found probable cause on June 28, 2018, that Phillips broke the law when he declined to make a cake for the transgender woman.

“A claim of discriminatory denial of full and equal enjoyment of a place of public accommodation has been established,” the commission found, noting that the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Masterpiece wedding cake case found Colorado can indeed protect gay people from discrimination.

In that case, Phillips had won a narrowly tailored victory at the Supreme Court, which ruled the Colorado Civil Rights Commission exhibited “hostility” toward Phillips’s religious beliefs. (A commissioner had compared Phillips’s defense to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.) In that case, the state sued Phillips.

Although the high court didn’t rule on his central arguments — that Phillips has a constitutional right to sidestep nondiscrimination laws because of his religious objections — Phillips and his lawyers have been emboldened to go on the offensive. This time around, Phillips and the Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit first, arguing the state’s protections for transgender people show the state is “blatantly and brazenly hostile toward religion.”

But while Phillips contends the Supreme Court’s previous ruling vindicates him now, the latest case differs from the dispute over the wedding cake. Chiefly, the lawsuit does not show specific examples of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission exhibiting “hostility” toward Phillips’s religion in the way it handled the transgender woman’s case — which was central to the Supreme Court’s decisions in the wedding cake case.

Second, the transgender woman’s cake, although designed to reflect her transition, was not to be used in any ceremony celebrating her gender change — removing Phillips’s previous argument that the message he created was part of a ceremony that violated his religious beliefs. 

Phillips had also said previously his recusals were limited to same-sex weddings. Read more via Buzzfeed News