Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
On June 4, 2018, the United States Supreme Court reversed the original ruling by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission on grounds specific to Masterpiece Cakeshop and this case, finding that the commission had not acted impartially when originally considering the case. This ruling applies only to Masterpiece Cakeshop and does not broadly allow similar businesses to discriminate. In this decision, the Court affirmed the importance of nondiscrimination laws and the need to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
On October 30, 2017, GLAD and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) submitted an amicus brief urging the United States Supreme Court to affirm the Colorado Court of Appeals’ decision in 2014 that Masterpiece Cakeshop unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple.
This case involves David Mullins and Charlie Craig, who visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012, with Charlie’s mother, to order a cake for their wedding reception. The owner of the bakery, Jack Phillips, informed them that he could not sell them a cake for their wedding because, based on his religious beliefs, he could only sell wedding cakes to different-sex couples.
David and Charlie filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which found that the bakery had violated Colorado nondiscrimination law. The bakery does not deny its policy to refuse service to gay couples seeking wedding cakes, and argues that it has a constitutional right to do so based on religious and free speech grounds.
The brief submitted by GLAD and NCLR states that nondiscrimination laws like Colorado’s “seek to assure citizens access to, and equal enjoyment of, the fundamental elements of full participation in civic life: access to homes, jobs, and public accommodations,” and that the exemption from anti-discrimination laws the bakery is seeking “will reach beyond the lives of LGBT persons to harm their children, families, and friends.”
The exemption the bakery seeks “would undermine the compelling goals of public accommodation laws, which were enacted based on the recognition that the discrimination they prohibit both deprives persons of their dignity and denies society the benefits of wide participation in political, economic and cultural life. We urge the Court to reject a rule that would constitutionalize a new right for commercial enterprises to discriminate against individuals because of their membership in a particular group.”
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, and that includes customers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Nobody should be turned away from a business, denied service, fired from their job, or evicted from their home simply because of who they are.
This case has been brought by the ACLU, and the amicus brief was written with assistance from Pierce Atwood LLP.