Gay couple discriminated against by shop that refused to bake their wedding cake, judge rules
Update: On Wednesday, we told you about a hearing in the case of Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, who said the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop had refused to bake them a wedding reception cake for a ceremony to be held in Massachusetts that September. Mullins and Craig claimed discrimination, and a short time ago, a judge agreed.
Get the details below in a release from the ACLU of Colorado, which defend the couple in the case. That's followed by our previous coverage.
ACLU of Colorado release:
Colorado Court Rules Bakery Illegally Discriminated Against Gay Couple
Masterpiece Cakeshop Refused to Serve Couple Wishing to Celebrate Their Marriage
DENVER -- A Colorado judge today determined that a Lakewood bakery unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to sell them a wedding cake.
David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop last year, with Craig's mother, to order a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. Mullins and Craig planned to marry in Massachusetts and then celebrate with family and friends back home in Colorado. Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips informed them that because of his religious beliefs the store's policy was to deny service to customers who wished to order baked goods to celebrate a same-sex couple's wedding.
"Being denied service by Masterpiece Cakeshop was offensive and dehumanizing especially in the midst of arranging what should be a joyful family celebration," said Mullins. "No one should fear being turned away from a public business because of who they are. We are grateful to have the support of our community and our state, and we hope that today's decision will help ensure that no one else will experience this kind of discrimination again in Colorado."
Longstanding Colorado state law prohibits public accommodations, including businesses such as Masterpiece Cakeshop, from refusing service based on factors such as race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation. Mullins and Craig filed complaints with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) contending that Masterpiece had violated this law. Earlier this year, the CCRD ruled that Phillips illegally discriminated against Mullins and Craig. Today's decision from Judge Robert N. Spencer of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts affirms that finding.
"While we all agree that religious freedom is important, no one's religious beliefs make it acceptable to break the law by discriminating against prospective customers," said Amanda C. Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "No one is asking Masterpiece's owner to change his beliefs, but treating gay people differently because of who they are is discrimination plain and simple."
Phillips admitted he had turned away other same-sex couples as a matter of policy. The CCRD's decision noted evidence in the record that Phillips had expressed willingness to take a cake order for the "marriage" of two dogs, but not for the commitment ceremony of two women, and that he would not make a cake for a same-sex couple's wedding celebration "just as he would not be willing to make a pedophile cake."
"Masterpiece Cakeshop has willfully and repeatedly considered itself above the law when it comes to discriminating against customers, and the state has rightly determined otherwise," said Sara R. Neel, staff attorney with the ACLU of Colorado. "It's important for all Coloradans to be treated fairly by every business that is open to the public -- that's good for business and good for the community."
To read the decision, click here.
Continue for our previous coverage of the discrimination claim against Masterpiece Cakeshop, including several original documents. Original post with update, 9:47 a.m. December 4: In July 2012, both The Latest Word and our sister blog, Cafe Society, shared the story of Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, who said the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop had refused to bake them a wedding reception cake for a ceremony to be held in Massachusetts that September. After their story went public, the ACLU of Colorado and, later, the Colorado Attorney General stepped in on the couple's behalf -- and today, their discrimination claim is scheduled to be heard in a local court. Details and loads of original documents below.
As our Kelsey Whipple reported, Mullins and Craig stopped by Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood in the hope of ordering a rainbow-layered cake featuring teal-and-red frosting that would match their wedding colors. But according to them, Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips turned them down, saying his business doesn't make cakes for gay weddings.
"It was the most awkward, surreal, very brief encounter," Mullins told Whipple. "We got up to leave, and to be totally honest, I said, 'Fuck you and your homophobic cake shop.' And I may or may not have flipped him off."
When Whipple called Masterpiece for the shop's side of the story, a staff member told her, "We have nothing to say about that." Whipple followed up by asking if the discrimination claim was true. The response: "We don't want to talk about that, so you'll just have to make something up."
After Mullins posted the experience on Facebook, sites such as Wipe Out Homophobia turned it into a viral sensation -- and before long, the ACLU of Colorado got involved. According to an ACLU blog post about the case, this incident wasn't isolated: Stephanie Schmalz and her partner, Jeanine, say they got similar treatment at Masterpiece when they tried to order cupcakes for a commitment ceremony -- but when she called back later and asked if the shop would bake a wedding cake for a dog wedding, Phillips allegedly was ready and willing to do it . Schmalz later shared her story in an affidavit on view below, as did Katie Allen, who says the owner noted that he wouldn't make a wedding cake for pedophiles, either.
The shop's position, the ACLU maintains, is that the no-cakes-for-gay-weddings policy is based on the "reading of the Word of God."
As for Mullins and Craig, they complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Division, which ultimately concluded that the two had been victims of illegal discrimination. That led to the Colorado Attorney General's Office filing against the bakery -- and 7News reports that an administrative judge in Colorado's Civil Rights Commission is slated to hear arguments in the case this morning.
We don't know how this case will come out yet, but at least Mullins and Craig didn't have a cake-free wedding reception as a result of the Masterpiece rejection. Mullins revealed to Whipple that they got the cake of their dreams from Le Bakery Sensual, which he describes as "the gayest cake shop we could think of.
"This is the first time I've ever been refused service at a business because I was gay," he added last year. "All we wanted was a cake. We didn't want [Phillips] to put on a rainbow shirt and march in the gay pride parade. This is me standing up for my community's rights."
Update, 2:15 p.m.: The ACLU of Colorado's John Krieger tells us that the judge hearing the case of Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins did not issue a ruling after this morning's proceedings, but he hopes to do so by week's end. We'll share the results with you once they arrive.
Continue to see original documents from the case: Charlie Craig's formal complaint, the Colorado Civil Rights Division's determination, Mullins's original charge of discrimination and affidavits from Schmalz and Allen.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Follow That Story archive circa July 2012: "Masterpiece Cakeshop refuses gay wedding: Readers share their stories."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.
- Is the Word "Marijuana" Offensive?
Wed., Dec. 9, 7:00pm
Wed., Dec. 9, 8:00pm
Fri., Dec. 11, 7:00pm
Fri., Dec. 11, 7:35pm
- Reader: I Can't Go Home for Two Years Over One Gram of Pot
- Ten Best Denver-Area Coffeehouses That Also Serve Liquor