Colorado baker Jack Phillips is back in court again for his unwavering stance against queer cakes.
Phillips won a partial victory in the Supreme Court back in 2018 when he and his Colorado bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. This time the issue is over a transgender-themed cake, as Phillips is now in court facing off against a trans woman he refused to bake a custom birthday cake for.
When trans lawyer Autumn Scardina heard that Phillips’s case was going in front of the Supreme Court she decided to see if he was being forthcoming about his reasons for not making the cake.
According to Phillips, he wasn’t discriminating against gay people as a whole, but wouldn’t make the cake because it involved a religious ceremony that he disagreed with as a Christian. He said he’d be willing to make cakes for gay people that didn’t involve ceremonies he disagreed with.
Scardina called Phillips’s shop and ordered a pink birthday cake with blue frosting to represent her gender transition. She was told by the worker on the phone that the shop didn’t make cakes that celebrated gender transitions.
“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,” Scardina said in her complaint. “I believe that other people who request birthday cakes get to select the color and theme of the cake.”
At the time, Phillips responded that his business wouldn’t “promote the idea that a person’s sex is anything other than an immutable God-given biological reality.”
Now, this week, Scardino’s virtual case was heard by a judge in Denver. In the arguments, Scardina said she isn’t trying to bully Phillips, but instead, “it was more of calling someone’s bluff,” and enforcing Colorado’s antidiscrimination laws.
In his opening arguments, Phillips’s lawyer said that the refusal to make the cake has nothing to do with Scardina as a person, but is about the “message” the cake represents.
David Mullins and Charlie Craig tried to commission Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop to make their wedding cake back in 2012. But Phillips said it was against his Christian beliefs to support same-sex marriage. He said he was willing to sell other goods to the couple, but not make them a custom wedding cake.
After the Colorado Civil Rights Commission sanctioned Phillips for refusing the couple service, he sued. Eventually the Supreme Court decided in a 7-2 decision that the commission overstepped and “the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion,” and they must be respectful towards people who cite religious beliefs when denying service to LGBTQ+ people.
While legal experts and queer activists were quick to point out that it was a narrow ruling that didn’t change civil rights for LGBTQ+ people, and only focused on the Colorado Commission acting improperly, many queer people were worried by the ruling and it’s apparent support of antigay discrimination. Hopefully this new case will bring more clarity on the issue of so-called “religious freedom” vs. discrimination.