On May 1, Colorado took a step toward civil-rights progress when it began recognizing same-sex civil unions. There was joy. There was acceptance. And it was a big move for a state that's had a contentious history with gay rights and that, just seven years ago, saw its voters approve a ban on gay marriage in the state's constitution. And in 1992, Coloradans approved Amendment 2, a law that would have prohibited gays and lesbians from being a protected class — until it was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1996.
The civil unions have also helped businesses, as the Colorado Springs Gazette reports. But there remain some small-business owners like Christian baker Jack Phillips (above at right), owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in the town of Lakewood, who took one big step backward. Phillips refuses to make wedding cakes for gay weddings, and he's now the subject of a formal complaint sitting at the Colorado Attorney General's Office. You can find the formal complaint (courtesy of the ACLU) right here, but here's the key part:
The law cited in the complaint says that business owners can't just refuse to serve someone based on who the person is. The law has a specific discrimination clause:
It is a discriminatory practice and unlawful for a person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an individual or a group, because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation ...
Note that the law applies to "a person." Phillips, the baker, makes cakes for dog weddings, just not gay-person weddings. Stephanie Schmalz and her partner, Jeanine, wanted to get some cupcakes to celebrate their commitment ceremony, the ACLU reports, and like several gay couples before them, they were refused. So Schmalz called up Phillips, telling him she was planning a wedding for her dog: "She told him that the dog wedding cake would need to feed 20 people and should be decorated with the names 'Roscoe' and 'Buffy,'" the ACLU writes. "Without hesitation, Phillips quoted her a price and asked how soon she needed it."
The policy at Masterpiece Cakeshop isn't new, or reacting to the new Colorado legislation per se. Phillips has actually been telling people since last July that he wouldn't be supplying baked goods for same-sex celebrations. "Phillips said he isn't a homophobe, and that he would gladly serve any other baked good to a gay couple — just not a wedding cake," Fox Denver reported at the time. "I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, so you could say this is a religious belief," Phillips told them. We're assuming the dog wedding of Roscoe and Buffy was a heterosexual wedding, and thus approved — doggy-sex be damned.
Phillips's hearing won't arrive until September, but it hasn't taken long for the fallout to reach the social-media sphere. Though Phillips said business was booming ever since he announced that he wasn't serving gay wedding cakes, Yelp says otherwise:
And only some of those negative reviews are due to his anti-gay cake policy.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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