The Supreme Court is expected to take up this week the case over whether a Colorado baker discriminated against a gay couple because he declined to bake a cake for their wedding.
The case – Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission – asks the high court to balance the religious rights of the baker against the couple’s right to equal treatment under the law. Similar disputes have popped up across the U.S.
The decision to take on the case reflects renewed energy among the court's conservative justices, whose ranks have recently been bolstered by the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the high court.
Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., declined to make a cake for the wedding celebration of two gay men in 2012. Phillips told the couple that he would make a birthday cake but could not make a cake that would promote same-sex marriage due to his religious beliefs.
Shopping for a cake for their upcoming wedding and celebration, couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig stopped into Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Jack Phillips, the bakery’s owner, informed the couple that he did not provide cakes for same-sex weddings and celebrations due to his religious beliefs.
“What should have been a joyous occasion had turned into a humiliating occasion,” Deborah Munn, the mother of Craig, wrote in a blog post for the American Civil Liberties Union about the experience.
The ACLU of Colorado represented the same-sex couple in their complaint against Phillips.
Judge Robert Spencer of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts decided — in line with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) — that the bakeshop had violated a Colorado law which prohibits businesses from refusing service due to a person’s sexual orientation.
Masterpiece Cakeshop appealed the decision.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission decided at a public hearing that Masterpiece had violated Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act, or CADA.
Phillips was ordered to change its company policies as well as offer “comprehensive staff training” to employees. The cake shop was also required to provide quarterly reports about how it handled prospective customers.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that Phillips cannot cite his religious beliefs in his refusal to provide a service to same-sex couples.
With the ruling, Phillips could face a penalty if he continues to deny wedding cakes to same-sex couples.
The Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal from Phillips.
On behalf of Phillips, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal nonprofit, petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case.
“We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure that government understands that its duty is to protect the people’s freedom to follow their beliefs personally and professionally, not force them to violate those beliefs as the price of earning a living,” ADF senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco said in a statement at the time.
The Supreme Court agreed to consider the case during its next term, which began in the fall.
The Supreme Court is set to take up the case on Dec. 5. Then, the justices will hear oral arguments.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.