Attorneys Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips argued in federal court Tuesday that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and other state officials are harassing him by enforcing Colorado’s antidiscrimination law.
Phillips, a conservative Christian who won a case at the Supreme Court over his refusal to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, had also declined transgender woman Autumn Scardina’s request to make a birthday cake that celebrated her gender transition. 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.
But Phillips, represented by the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom, filed suit contending the state is targeting him for his religious beliefs and treating him differently than it treats other “cake artists.” The suit seeks an injunction to keep the commission from proceeding with its complaint against him.
“The pending case is an obvious attempt to harass the baker,” ADF attorney Jim Campbell said in U.S. District Court in Denver Tuesday, according to Colorado Public Radio. Phillips did not appear at the hearing.
Lawyers for the state argued that Phillips’s suit should be dismissed, as the state is simply enforcing a law that has long been on the books. In the case that went to the Supreme Court, the majority agreed that the civil rights commission’s ruling against Phillips should be vacated because commissioners had shown hostility to his religious beliefs. But it did not establish a right to discriminate, and indeed, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that protections against discrimination are crucial.
Judge Anthony Daniel said Tuesday that Phillips’s request for an injunction against the state was too broad, Colorado Public Radio reports. But he gave the baker’s attorneys until early 2019 to narrow the request. He added, “Whatever I do here will be appealed.”
Phillips’s suit names all members of the civil rights commission, along with Gov. John Hickenlooper and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. Both Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Coffman, a Republican, are leaving office, and as of January their successors will take up the defense of the antidiscrimination law. Their respective successors are Jared Polis, who will be the nation’s first openly gay governor, and Phil Weiser, both Democrats.