A gay couple is pursuing a discrimination complaint against a Colorado bakery, saying the business refused them a wedding cake to honor their Massachusetts ceremony, and alleging that the owners have a history of turning away same-sex couples.
As more states move to legalize same-sex marriage and civil unions, the case highlights a growing tension between gay rights advocates and supporters of religious freedom.
“Religious freedom is a fundamental right in America and it’s something that we champion at the ACLU,” said Mark Silverstein, the legal director of the group in Colorado, which filed the complaint on behalf of the couple. “We are all entitled to our religious beliefs and we fight for that. But someone’s personal religious beliefs don’t justify breaking the law by discriminating against others in the public sphere.”
The attorney for Jack Phillips, one of the owners of Masterpiece Cakeshop, sees it differently.
“We don’t believe that this is a case about commerce. At its heart, this is a case about conscience,” said Nicolle Martin. She said the matter is important because it will serve as an example for future cases across the country as more gay couples gain legal recognitions for their relationships.
“It brings it to the forefront. I just don’t think that we should heighten one person’s beliefs over and above another person’s beliefs,” she said.
The Colorado Attorney General’s office filed a formal complaint last week after the ACLU initiated the process last year on behalf of David Mullins and Charlie Craig. The case is scheduled for a hearing in September before Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission.
Nationwide, 12 states now allow gay marriage, with Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota doing so this year. And in a year that Colorado lawmakers approved civil unions, they also elected the first gay Speaker of the House.
But Colorado’s civil union law does not provide religious protections for businesses despite the urging of Republican lawmakers. Democrats argued that such a provision would give businesses cover to discriminate.
Read more: wfaa.com