As of this morning, an online petition condemning Lakewood bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop for its policy against working with gay weddings has garnered well over 4,000 signatures. This weekend, for the second Saturday in a row, protesters gathered outside the store in an effort to convince owner Jack Phillips to change his mind. But that's not going to happen anytime soon. "If I didn't have strong convictions about the issue in the first place, it wouldn't have come up," Phillips tells Westword. "None of the protests or anything will change that."
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The national and international attention trained on Masterpiece Cakeshop has resulted in hundreds of phone calls and e-mails to the store every day since the news broke here two weeks ago, -- shortly after Phillips told local couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins that he would not bake a cake for the reception of their gay wedding. Personally hurt but politically motivated, Mullins posted a brief version of their story on Facebook that same day, and friends and supporters spread the word through the petition, Facebook groups and more than 100 Yelp reviews (later removed) criticizing the bakery.
But not all of the public attention has supported the couple. This morning alone, Phillips says he's spent more than four hours on the phone with people calling to react to Masterpiece's anti-gay marriage stance, and only three of the calls he received during that time were negative. Even as protesters argued civil liberties outside of his shop on Saturday, fans of the stance made a point of ordering their confections inside. Right now, Masterpiece is taking on four times the business it usually has this time of year, its owner says.
Positive feedback has come to outweigh the negative "100 to 1," says Phillips, who also now offers a clarification of his position opposing gay marriage, which is based on his faith in Jesus Christ. (The first time Westword tried to speak to him, he told us to "make something up." We didn't.) Although Masterpiece won't bake gay wedding cakes, the bakery is happy to supply gay customers with "birthday cakes and graduation cakes and everything else," he says.
"My stance comes from my belief in the teachings of the Bible; it's not civil rights or Constitutional liberties we're dealing with," Phillips insists. "When I do a first birthday cake, I imagine the baby in the high chair and the family gathering around and smiling, and I feel like I'm a part of that because I contributed to it. But with gay weddings, I refuse to be a part of that."
Mullins says he and Craig have had no contact with Phillips since they heard his initial refusal, walked out of his store and flipped the place the bird. As the date of their September ceremony in Provincetown, Massachusetts, grows closer, they plan to divide their time between activism and wedding plans. Their continued goal is to raise community awareness and convince Phillips to change the store's policy -- not to shut down the store altogether. And moving forward, that could mean continued regular protests.
Click through for the rest of the story and additional photos from this weekend's protest.
"It's incredible to have people we barely know stand up for us and hug us and be proud of us," Mullins says of this most recent protest. "It's one thing to read people's messages online and see what they're writing on the Internet, but it's another thing to see them stand up not for just you but for gay rights in general. We hope we can change the way Masterpiece treats people like us."
Is that possible? According to Phillips, "not at all." He points to the recent example of one regular customer, a gay man who had spent more than $2,000 at Masterpiece but told Phillips he'd never see another penny after the store's stance on gay weddings became public. But the store continues to gain customers even as it loses them.
"We're getting hundreds of nice phone calls a day," he says. "On Saturday, I have no idea how many people came by the shop to support us, but the store was full and the sidewalk was full of traffic trying to get inside. We're not going anywhere."
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