Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips is in legal trouble again, this time for discriminating against a transgender customer, but he has countersued, claiming he’s being persecuted for his religious beliefs.
Phillips, who won a victory at the Supreme Court this year in a case involving his refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, recently declined to create a birthday cake for a transgender woman because it also celebrated her gender transition, ThinkProgress reports.
Autumn Scardina, a transgender attorney in Arvada, Colo., contacted Phillips’s bakery in nearby Lakewood to order a birthday cake. Her birthday is also the date she came out as transgender, so she asked one of his employees for a cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate that fact. The employee replied that Masterpiece doesn’t make cakes commemorating gender transitions.
She filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission June 26, saying Masterpiece discriminated against her on the basis of sex and gender identity. “The woman on the phone did not object to my request for a birthday cake until I told her I was celebrating my transition from male to female,” she wrote in the complaint, according to ThinkProgress. “I believe that other people who request birthday cakes get to select the color and theme of the cake.”
Phillips, a conservative Christian, responded that his business will not “promote the idea that a person’s sex is anything other than an immutable God-given biological reality.”
But the civil rights commission issued a letter June 28 finding probable cause that Masterpiece had discriminated against Scardina in violation of state law and ordered her and the shop to seek a resolution through mediation, The Denver Post reports. It cited the Supreme Court’s ruling, which emphasized the public interest in preventing discrimination against LGBTQ people, even though the court found in Phillips’s favor, saying the commission had shown hostility to his religious beliefs.
Phillips, however, has now sued the state of Colorado, naming Gov. John Hickenlooper, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, and members of the civil rights commission. His attorneys, from the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom, which also represented him at the Supreme Court, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Denver late Tuesday night, the Post reports. The suit claims the state is treating him differently than it treats other “cake artists.”
“The state of Colorado is ignoring the message of the U.S. Supreme Court by continuing to single out Jack for punishment and to exhibit hostility toward his religious beliefs,” ADF senior vice president Kristen Waggoner said in a press release. “Even though Jack serves all customers and simply declines to create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in violation of his deeply held beliefs, the government is intent on destroying him — something the Supreme Court has already told it not to do. Neither Jack nor any other creative professionals should be targeted by the government for living consistently with their religious beliefs.”
The Post sought comment from commission officials today, but they could not be reached immediately.