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What if Jesus was a baker, and not a carpenter?
Same-sex marriage was still illegal in Colorado when Charlie Craig and David Mullins walked into Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., to order a cake for their wedding reception.
They had just gotten married in Massachusetts, where it was legal, but wanted to have a reception back home.
Phillips, who counted a number of homosexuals among his customers, sent them away after a 20-second conversation.
“Sorry, guys, I don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.”
Mullins took the case to Facebook, asking friends to let the business know they thought the policy was discriminatory.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission agreed, saying that while ‘Masterpiece remains free to continue espousing its religious beliefs, including its opposition to same-sex marriage,” if it operated as a public accommodation, it was not free to pick-and-choose customers based on their sexual orientation. Colorado and 20 other states have laws preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The American Civil Liberties Union took up the case, and every court so far has agreed with the initial ruling.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning. This is the first case involving gay rights since the court ruled in 2015 that states could not prevent same-sex couples from marrying.
“Artists shouldn’t be forced to express what the government dictates,” argues Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Phillips. “The commission ordered Jack to celebrate what his faith prohibits or to stop doing the work he loves,” she continued in an email. “The Supreme Court has never compelled artistic expression, and doing so here would lead to less civility, diversity and freedom for everyone, no matter their views on marriage.”
But the ACLU and other groups fear a ruling in favor of Phillips could allow a wide range of other business owners to discriminate for a variety of reasons. They argue that the court has never recognized what they call a constitutional right to discriminate.
For his part, Phillips says he thinks there’s an example to follow.
“Well, you know, in my opinion – Jesus was a carpenter. I don’t think he would have made a bed for their wedding,” Phillips said. “He would have never condoned something that he was against.”