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Masterpiece Cakeshop Ruling Bad but Could Have Been Worse, Attorney Says

Masterpiece Cakeshop Ruling Bad but Could Have Been Worse, Attorney Says
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Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. - FILE PHOTO
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.
File photo
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper:

"It’s against Colorado law to deny goods and services to any individual because of sexual orientation. Nothing in the narrow opinion released today by the United States Supreme Court changes that, or prevents the state from protecting LGBTQ persons from discrimination.

"While we are disappointed with the decision, we take seriously the Court’s admonition that the state must apply its laws and regulations in a manner that is neutral toward religion. We have no doubt that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission will meet that standard as they listen, respectfully, to all sides of the matters that come before it and issue decisions that uphold the protections afforded under Colorado law."

Colorado Civil Rights Division:


The Colorado Civil Rights Division respects the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The decision does not alter the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act or its protections.

The court has sent a message regarding members of decision-making bodies, such as the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, requiring that its deliberations remain objective and consistent so that both parties are guaranteed those considerations and are applied in a consistent manner.

The Colorado Civil Rights Division is the administrative division under the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies that receives and investigates charges of discrimination.


Along with this guidance issued by the United States Supreme Court, the Colorado Civil Rights Division will continue reviewing charges of discrimination as it pertains to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.

Colorado State Senator Bob Gardner:

"Today, the United States Supreme Court found that our State's Civil Rights Commission acted with hostility toward a citizen's free exercise of religion. In fact, the Court noted the unchallenged hostility toward religion by this group appointed by our Governor. The Court found that the very body charged with protecting the rights of our citizens acted with hostility toward those rights in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

"During the legislative session, I struggled to restore balance to the Civil Rights Commission and ensure that it would not be captured by a viewpoint that favors one set of protected rights over another. This is the very reason I worked last session to restore balance and accountability to the Civil Rights Commission. While some believed the legislation achieved that, I did not and voted against the reauthorization of an unaccountable commission.

"The Court's ruling today confirms that my concerns were legitimate and the need for balance on the Commission absolutely essential for our citizens. The Governor we elect this year will make at least three appointments to the Commission early next year. That is why it is critical that we elect a Governor committed to protecting all of our civil rights, including the right to religious freedom."

Anti-Defamation League CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt:

"We are disappointed by today’s ruling against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Fortunately, the decision was narrow, focusing on the Commission’s religious partiality in rendering its decision against the baker.

"Let’s be clear, the Supreme Court decision does not give businesses the constitutional right to discriminate, and it does not change existing state anti-discrimination protections. The Court reiterated the importance of the rights and dignity of LGBT individuals to be free from discrimination. And it recognized that religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws for businesses must be limited and confined.

"ADL will keep working with our partners to advocate for the passage of the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals across the country. No one should be fired from a job, denied a place to live, or turned away from a business simply because of who they are or who they love."

Colorado State Senator Kevin Grantham:

"This ruling stands as a clear and humbling rebuke to all those, inside and outside the Statehouse, who took the position this last session that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission can do no wrong, and that it always acts within appropriate legal and constitutional boundaries. It clearly does not. Not only does this ruling demonstrate why Senate Republicans made the effort we did to reform the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, but I think this opens the door to follow-up reforms now that we all have a better understanding of where cases of overreach and abuse can occur.

"We hate to say we told you so...but we told you so. We pushed for modest but necessary reforms and restraints, which were designed to rein-in the potential for such abuses, but Democrats refused to budge on much of what we proposed, and even now seek to diminish the significance of this ruling. This shows precisely why the Civil Rights Commission needed to be depoliticized, de-radicalized and returned to its original mission — to protect the civil liberties of all Coloradans, not just a select few.

"The refusal of many Democrats and special interests to see the need for any but the most innocuous reforms offers troubling proof that they care more about politicizing the commission than seeing it follow constitutional principle. We hope they will do some serious soul-searching in the wake of this ruling. But I will not hold my breath."

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. - FACEBOOK FILE PHOTO
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.
Facebook file photo
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman:

"Today the Supreme Court determined that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’s sincerely held religious beliefs in this particular case. Based on the statements of some Commissioners, the Court found that the proceedings did not honor the State’s solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws.

"At the same time, the opinion is narrow. The Court made its decision based on a specific set of facts and left open many legal questions. Unfortunately, those questions will have to be decided in future litigation.

"The Court did make clear, however, that States like Colorado may continue to protect the LGBTQ community, reaffirming principles my office has consistently defended for the past six years. The general rule was, and remains, that the First Amendment does not allow business owners to deny members of the community equal access to goods and services. As the Court said, the right of gay people and couples to 'exercise ... their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect.' The Court’s decision did nothing to undermine protections the Colorado General Assembly granted to the LGBTQ community under our Anti-Discrimination Act."

U.S. Representative Jared Polis:

"This is a disheartening ruling for the LGBTQ community and a sad reminder that we have a long way to go in building a nation where everyone is free from discrimination, regardless of who they are or who they love.

“Here in Colorado, equality is a fundamental value. We take great pride in having some of the strongest, most forward-thinking non-discrimination laws in the country. To be clear, nothing in this ruling gives opponents of equality justification to try to undo those laws or dismantle the vital Colorado Civil Rights Commission. As Coloradans, we will stand strong against any attacks on our fundamental rights.”

Laura E. Durso, vice president of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress:

"This decision recognizes the long-standing principle that businesses open to the public need to serve the public on equal terms. Despite narrowly ruling for the baker on the limited facts of this case, the court highlights the importance of enacting protections against discrimination to combat the mistreatment that same-sex couples and LGBTQ people face across all areas of life. Religious freedom is a cherished value that is only strengthened by inclusion of LGBTQ people under civil rights laws. Those of us who stand on the side of justice must work to ensure everyone is safe in their communities and receives their full measure of equality."

U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter:

"The Masterpiece case was an opportunity for the Supreme Court to set an important anti-discrimination precedent. Unfortunately today’s ruling, though narrowly written, reminds us we can never stop fighting against discrimination in this country and underscores the need for nationwide nondiscrimination protections. I signed the amicus brief in support of Charlie and David because I believe every American is guaranteed freedom from discrimination regardless of their race, color, sexual orientation or gender."

Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute:

"Today is a sad day for America and especially for LGBTQ youth who have grown up believing in the inevitable move toward fairness and justice for our community. That path toward justice ebbs and flows, and today the Supreme Court led us away from one of the basic tenants of American idealism — that all are treated equally. While the Supreme Court made a narrow ruling focused exclusively on a state agency’s treatment of a Colorado baker, opponents of equality will use it to try and open the floodgates. Homophobic forces will purposefully over-interpret the ruling and challenge existing non-discrimination laws by refusing service to LGBTQ people in even more situations — denying them dinner at a restaurant, lodging at a hotel, or renting an apartment.

"State and local civil rights enforcement offices are now on the frontlines in protecting LGBTQ people from widespread discrimination, so it is critical we pressure elected leaders to fully fund these agencies and ensure they have the resources to push back on attempts at discrimination. LGBTQ elected officials like Colorado State Rep. Leslie Herod have led efforts to build up state and local enforcement agencies, and now we need all elected officials who support equality to prioritize these offices given today’s ruling. Our representatives must respond."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts