By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com December 05 2013 1:33 PM ET
A bakery owner in Lakewood, Colo., appeared in court yesterday to defend himself against allegations that he discriminated against a gay couple last July when he refused to bake a cake for their wedding.
On July 19, Jack Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop, refused to bake a wedding cake for Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, who married in Massachussetts last September. After Masterpiece Cakeshop turned away a lesbian couple who wanted a wedding cake — but accepted the couple's request for a cake for a dog wedding — the Colorado Attorney General's office filed a discrimination complaint against the bakery.
At the time, Phillips told Denver's KDVR that his religious belief prevented him from serving the couple. He brought the same "religious liberty" argument to civil court in Denver on Wednesday, while his attorney added that refusing to bake cakes for gay couples is a form of speech, protected by the First Amendment.
"I am a follower of Jesus Christ," Phillips said in July. "So you could say it’s a religious belief. I believe the Bible teaches it’s not an OK thing."
But the gay couple who were turned away, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued the case on their behalf, contend that Colorado's nondiscrimination statutes prohibit businesses that serve the public from refusing service to anyone based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
“Being discriminated against is a form of personal invalidation," Mullins told KDVR. "It’s being degraded and put on a lower level than other people in society… In his church and in his heart, he can hold whatever beliefs he wants. But a cake shop is governed by civil laws and not religious laws."
The civil judge who heard the case Wednesday is expected to rule by early next week. If it's determined that Phillips' policy refusing to bake cakes for same-sex weddings violates state law, the owner will have to change that policy, post a notice in his store promising to serve everyone equally, and report back to the state to confirm he's remedied the issue. But Phillips' lawyer says she would appeal the decision if Phillips loses.
Watch KDVR's report below.