U.S. Supreme Court Grants Review in Case of Baker Seeking Religious Exemption from LGBT Law

By Adam Polaski • June 26, 2017 • 9:49 am

Today, June 26, the United States Supreme Court granted review in Craig and Mullins v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union concerning a business owner in Colorado who denied service to a same-sex couple, David Mullins & Charlie Craig, because they are gay. The business owner seeks a religious exemption to a longstanding non-discrimination law in Colorado prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bakery is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that works aggressively to restrict and roll back non-discrimination protections and basic equality for LGBT Americans.

When considering the case, the U.S. Supreme Court must consider the reality that many courts and commissions have affirmed in this specific case that Masterpiece Cakeshop is in no way entitled to a religious exemption from the Colorado Public Accommodations Law. In December 2013 Administrative Judge Robert Spencer of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts issued a decision to that effect, and in 2014 the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled against the business. A 2015 ruling from the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the decision, and when asked for review, the Colorado Supreme Court denied review in 2016. We are confident that when arguments are presented in the coming year, the Supreme Court will come to the same conclusion.

No one should be able to deny service to someone based a person’s customer’s sexual orientation. Religious freedom is undoubtedly important – it is one of our nation’s most cherished freedoms, it’s already protected by the U.S. Constitution, and no one is trying to change that. But religious freedom does not give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on anyone else or discriminate against other people. That’s what the Alliance Defending Freedom is trying to win at the U.S. Supreme Court – and that’s what our nation’s highest court must deny.

Kasey Suffredini, Acting CEO & President of Strategy of Freedom for All Americans, said today:

David and Charlie were unfairly denied service at a business because of their sexual orientation — a clear violation of Colorado’s longtime nondiscrimination law. When the Supreme Court hears this case, the justices should consider the reality that businesses who serve the public are expected to be open to everyone, without exception. All of us cherish the American promise of religious freedom as protected under the U.S. Constitution, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to discriminate against others. This case will be an important opportunity to have a national conversation about the values we all share as Americans and the importance of equal treatment for everyone.

After all, religious exemptions aren’t just about bakeries refusing to sell products to same-sex couples. As we are seeing with a draft executive order from the Trump Administration, religious exemptions can have far-reaching and damaging consequences for everyday LGBT people. In recent years, especially following the Supreme Court decision granting the freedom to marry to same-sex couples and a stark rise in visibility for transgender Americans, some businesses and individuals have made an aggressive push for a license to discriminate – from child welfare providers seeking to deny children a home with loving same-sex couples to businesses who wish to deny equal treatment to all LGBT people to religious hospitals refusing urgent care to transgender people.
As a nation, we decided a long time ago that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms. Businesses shouldn’t be able to pick and choose who to serve based on their religious beliefs.

Overwhelmingly, Americans oppose policies that allow businesses to cite their religious beliefs as an excuse for discrimination. A July 2015 poll from Small Business Majority, American Unity Fund and the Center for American Progress found that a supermajority of business owners – 66 percent – believed business owners should not be able to deny goods or services to LGBT people based on the owner’s religious beliefs. That poll also found that 80 percent of small business owners support comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.

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