Jack Phillips might be the most famous baker in these here United States, but not because of what rises in his oven. The owner of Lakewood's Masterpiece Cakeshop has been in and out of courthouses since at least 2012, fighting for his right to discriminate against certain customers whose lifestyles don't jibe with his Christian beliefs.
The case that made him a hero for the religious right ended last year — sort of — when the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Colorado's Civil Rights Commission hadn't been entirely neutral when it sided with Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple that sued Phillips after he refused to bake them a wedding cake. By the end of last year, Phillips was in court again over a similar case, in which Denver attorney Autumn Scardina alleged he wouldn't bake her a cake to celebrate her gender-affirmation surgery. The Civil Rights Commission took up the case, and Phillips lawyered up.
Armed with counsel from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative nonprofit law firm, Phillips took the State of Colorado to court for supposedly punishing him for again citing religious beliefs when denying a customer.
But today, March 5, the Colorado Attorney General's Office and the cake shop announced a ceasefire: Both sides agreed to end their ongoing state and federal litigation against each other. Each side will "bear their own costs and attorneys' fees," the AG's office said in a statement, and Scardina can still pursue a claim on her own.
"Under the terms of the agreement, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission will voluntarily dismiss the state administrative action against Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner, Jack Phillips, and Mr. Phillips will voluntarily dismiss his federal court case against the State," the statement continued.
“After careful consideration of the facts, both sides agreed it was not in anyone’s best interest to move forward with these cases," said AG Phil Weiser, whose office represents the Commission, in the statement. "The larger constitutional issues might well be decided down the road, but these cases will not be the vehicle for resolving them. Equal justice for all will continue to be a core value that we will uphold as we enforce our state’s and nation’s civil-rights laws."
The Alliance Defending Freedom called the decision a win for Phillips. “Jack’s victory is great news for everyone," said ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner, who argued on behalf of Phillips at the U.S. Supreme Court, in a statement. "Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a diverse society like ours. They enable us to peacefully coexist with each another. But the state’s demonstrated and ongoing hostility toward Jack because of his beliefs is undeniable.”
But the real winners are Coloradans, who never have to hear about Masterpiece Cakeshop again. Maybe.