The legal fight to ensure religious liberty protections for Colorado baker Jack Phillips continues after a state district judge ruled against Phillips in a case involving a request for a cake celebrating a gender transition.
Despite a favorable 2018 Supreme Court ruling for Phillips in a similar case, Colorado state District Judge A. Bruce Jones ruled Tuesday that Phillips violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when he refused on religious grounds to design a blue and pink cake to celebrate a gender transition for Autumn Scardina, a biological male who presents as female.
Jones, in his ruling Tuesday, argued Phillips’ refusal to fill Scardina’s request constituted a refusal to sell a product, not a case of compelled speech as Phillips has argued through his attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom.
In Phillips’ 2018 high court case, the justices, in a 7-2 decision, ruled that Colorado had used “clear and impermissible hostility” in prosecuting Phillips for declining to design a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2013.
But following that ruling, the state again pursued Phillips on grounds he had violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination law in refusing to comply with Scardina’s request. Scardina approached Phillips with his request on the same day in 2017 that the Supreme Court announced it would hear Phillips’ case.
Phillips countered with a lawsuit against the state, and Colorado dropped its case against him. But Scardina, a local attorney, responded with his own civil lawsuit against Phillips.
In his ruling, Jones wrote that anti-discrimination laws are intended to “ensure that members of our society who have historically been treated unfairly, who have been deprived of even the every-day right to access businesses to buy products, are no longer treated as ‘others.’”
Phillips has repeatedly stated that he happily serves LGBTQ people, yet he will not design goods that conflict with his religious beliefs, which include goods themed around Halloween or that use disparaging or offensive language.
ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who argued Phillips’ Supreme Court case, responded on Twitter that ADF will appeal the latest ruling.
“This case and others—including the case of floral artist Barronelle Stutzman, whose petition is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court—represents a disturbing trend: the weaponization of our justice system to ruin those with whom the activists disagree.”
Waggoner elaborated in a statement: “Radical activists and government officials are targeting artists like Jack because they won’t promote messages on marriage and sexuality that violate their core convictions.”
On Facebook, Franklin Graham said of Phillips: “He is standing up for his rights to decline to be a part of something he doesn’t believe in. In taking this stand, he is fighting for all of our rights to do the same. This seems to be a saga that won’t end for Jack and his family. Join me in praying for Jack today, and encouraging him in the comments below!”
Jones ruling includes a $500 fine for Phillips for violating Colorado’s antidiscrimination statute.
Photo: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom