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ACLU Files Brief at Supreme Court Arguing That Businesses Open to Public Cannot Discriminate Against Customers

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today filed its brief in the Supreme Court in a case in which a Colorado bakery refused to serve a same-sex couple seeking a cake for their wedding reception.

The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, will be heard at the Supreme Court on December 5th.

The Colorado courts found that the bakery violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to serve Charlie Craig and David Mullins when they walked into the bakery in July 2012 to inquire about cakes for their wedding reception. In its brief, the ACLU argues that the First Amendment does not give a business open to the public the right to discriminate against its customers in violation of state law.

“As a nation and as a state, we decided decades ago that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “A ruling allowing discrimination in this case would have implications far beyond LGBT people.  It would put in jeopardy longstanding protections against discrimination here in Colorado and across the country.”

Under Colorado law, businesses open to the public like Masterpiece Cakeshop may not refuse service based on factors including race, religion, or sexual orientation. After lower courts ruled in Mullins and Craig’s favor, the bakery requested that the Supreme Court review the case.

“This is not about the cake. Charlie and David walked into the cake shop and were turned away because of who they are,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “The stakes could not be higher. A ruling against them at the Supreme Court would not just encourage other businesses to engage in discriminatory practices: It would enshrine a constitutional right to discriminate.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Colorado, and the Denver firm King & Greisen represent Mullins and Craig in the case.


Read the ACLU brief:

Visit the case page:


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