Colorado baker loses appeal over cake ordered to celebrate woman’s gender transition
A Colorado baker sued over his refusal to bake a cake for a transgender woman lost an appeal Thursday after a panel of judges ruled that his decision violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips first made headlines in 2012, when he was sued for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. That case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, with justices ruling in his favor in 2018.
His latest legal battle involved Denver-based attorney Autumn Scardina, a transgender woman who said the Christian-owned bakery refused to sell her a cake because of her gender identity.
On Thursday, the Colorado Court of Appeals agreed with a trial judge ruling that Phillips violated Scardina’s rights by denying her services because of her trans identity.
In her complaint, Scardina claimed that the Christian baker refused to sell her a birthday cake “because she is transgender, despite repeatedly advertising that they would sell birthday cakes to the general public, including LGBT individuals.”
The cake she wanted to order was blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate her transition.
Philips has maintained that he won’t create cakes to celebrate events that he, as a Christian, doesn’t agree with.
His lawyers argued that the decision to deny baking Scardina the cake was based on his “firm and sincere religious beliefs.” Doing so would violate his free speech rights under the First Amendment.
But the court found that making a pink cake with blue frosting would not violate his rights.
Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Timohty Shutz noted that the cake ordered by Scardina expressed no images or message.
“We conclude that creating a pink cake with blue frosting is not inherently expressive and any message or symbolism it provides to an observer would not be attributed to the baker,” he wrote.
Phillips was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a prominent conservative legal advocacy organization that has been designated as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its decades-long work against LGBTQ rights.
Lawyer Jake Warner of the Alliance said his client will appeal.
“No one should be forced to express a message that violates their core beliefs,” he stated, adding that state law is being misused to “force him to say things he does not believe ... This cruelty must stop.”
In Phillips’ 2018 case, the Supreme Court issued a limited ruling that he didn’t have to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. But the court shied away from addressing larger questions about LGBTQ rights and claims to religious freedom.