May 30, 2014
DENVER – The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that a Lakewood bakery violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. At a public hearing today, the commission rejected the bakery’s appeal of an earlier finding of unlawful discrimination by an administrative judge.
David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012, with Craig’s mother, to order a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. Mullins and Craig planned to marry in Massachusetts and then celebrate with family and friends back home in Colorado. Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips informed them that because of his religious beliefs the store’s policy was to deny service to customers who wished to order baked goods to celebrate a same-sex couple’s wedding.
“What should have been a happy day for us turned into a humiliating and dehumanizing experience because of the way we were treated,” said Mullins. “No one should ever have to walk into a store and wonder if they will be turned away just because of who they are.”
Long-standing Colorado state law prohibits public accommodations, including businesses such as Masterpiece Cakeshop, from refusing service based on factors such as race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation. Last year, an administrative judge upheld the Colorado Civil Rights Division’s finding of illegal discrimination by the bakery. Today’s decision from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission affirms the prior ruling. The commission voted unanimously to order a change in policy by the bakery, as well as staff training, and quarterly reporting to confirm that the business does not turn away customers due to sexual orientation.
“Religious freedom is undoubtedly an important American value, but so is the right to be treated equally under the law free from discrimination,” said Amanda C. Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Everyone is free to believe what they want, but businesses like Masterpiece Cakeshop cannot treat some customers differently than others based on who they are as people.”
Phillips admitted he had turned away other same-sex couples as a matter of policy despite Colorado’s law.
“Masterpiece Cakeshop has willfully and repeatedly considered itself above the law when it comes to discriminating against customers, and the Commission has rightly determined otherwise,” said Sara R. Neel, staff attorney with the ACLU of Colorado.
“This law was passed to protect the people of Colorado from experiencing the very same treatment Charlie and David experienced,” said Paula Greisen of King and Griesen LLP, which is representing the couple as cooperating counsel with the ACLU of Colorado. “Everyone who shops in our stores and conducts business in our state should be treated with equality and dignity. That’s what this ruling was about today.”
For more information on this case, please visit: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/charlie-craig-and-david-mullins-v-masterpiece-cakeshop