Same-sex marriage cake case renews effort to legalize discrimination on religious grounds

Anyone who thought the 1990s culture wars in Colorado were over hasn’t been following efforts by Republicans in the state House of Representatives.

A GOP lawmaker in the lower chamber again tried to roll back protections for the LGBTQ community this week, saying Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws that protect sexual orientation and gender identity run afoul of protections for religious beliefs.

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee debated a proposed new law introduced by Rep. Stephen Humphrey, a Republican from Eaton, that, if passed, would allow businesses and employers to discriminate based on sincerely held religious beliefs— bucking longstanding civil rights protections, which are guaranteed in Colorado.

“Right now I don’t think we have a balance that is protecting people of faith,” Humphrey told the committee.

Lining up in support of the bill were religious adoption centers who say current state law is forcing them to either act as law-abiding citizens or follow their beliefs. Without the protections a new law would give them, they said, they may be forced to shut down their adoption centers.

“We believed that children are best served when they are raised by parents of men and women,” Beth Woods, who is the director for Hope’s Promise, an adoption center in Castle Rock, told the committee.

Democrats who control the committee voted down the bill 7-4 along party lines, echoes of which appeared elsewhere in at least one other proposed measure that has already died this year.

Earlier this month, Humphrey, for instance, offered an amendment to a separate proposed law to reauthorize the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that gave similar protections to religious groups. Democrats voted down the amendment on the House floor.

Humphrey mentioned the owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, Jack Phillips, when he was defending his bill, saying that people are scared.

He was referencing the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case that is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The high-profile legal showdown over Christian religious beliefs and gay rights, involves Phillips, the owner of the cakeshop, who claims he did not discriminate against would-be customers Charlie Craig and David Mullins in July 2012 by refusing to make them a custom wedding cake. Phillips says he is a victim of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law whose insistence that he serve same-sex couples violates his belief that homosexuality is a sin and conflicts with his constitutionally protected artistic expression.

Craig and Mullins came to the Capitol on Tuesday to testify against the bill.

“Freedom of religion is essential in our country, but that doesn’t mean you can practice your faith in a way that demeans others or excludes them from public life,” Mullins told reporters after their testimony.

About 25 years ago, Colorado voters passed Amendment 2, which stripped protections for homosexuals. The law was later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Leading the effort to keep this law off the books was Jean Dubofsky, the first woman to serve as a Colorado Supreme Court justice. She was also at the committee meeting on Tuesday to testify against it.

“This bill applies to anyone who doesn’t like LGBT people,” Dubofsky said. “And they would be protected by this bill.”

Correction: A previous version of this story said Rep. Stephen Humphrey was from Greely. We updated the story to say he is from Eaton. 
David Mullins and Charlie Craig, who are the gay couple at the center of a legal fight before the U.S. Supreme Court involving a wedding cake, testified against a bill on Tuesday that would roll back protections for the LGBTQ community. Photo by John Herrick


  1. I don’t think that Phillips (or his legal team) are actually basing their case on the sinfulness of homosexuality, but on freedom of speech (which includes freedom of artistic expression) and Phillip’s religous belief that marriage can only be the union of a man and a woman. If any bakers, or any other craftsmen or artists in a free country, specifically wish to reserve their talents for the celebration of the unique way that husband and wife complement each other, then obviously they should be free to do so. That has nothing to do with discrimination. One of the root causes for this dispute, is the attempt by some groups and some in goverment to impose the idea onto free citizens, that same-sex “marriage” and traditional marriage are equal and the same, which they are obviously not.
    And free countries don’t compel artistic expression. Dictatorships do. To artistically design and create a cake specifically as the central celebratory symbol of a same-sex “wedding” celebration, and to deliver it and set it up at the event, does imply parcipitation in conveying the message of celebration of same-sex “marriage”. Artistic expression and expressive conduct are involved. I cannot see how compelling bakers to do suchlike in contradiction to their artistic freedom and discretion and also in contradiction to their religious beliefs, does not intrude on their 1st amendment rights.

  2. A Christian customer cannot force a gay baker to create a cake that expresses the sentiment that some Christian belief is good. So why should a gay customer be able to force a Christian baker to create a cake that expresses the sentiment that same sex marriage is good?

  3. Randomutation has it backwards.

    Under the law prohibiting discrimination against protected classes, a gay baker can’t discriminate against a Christian (or a Muslim or a Jew or a gay person), just as a Christian baker can’t discriminate against a gay person (or a Muslim or a Jew or a Christian person).

    It’s pretty easy to understand.

  4. @Little Me, it’s not discrimination.
    Discrimination would be denying service to a Christian because he is a Christian. That’s different than denying service because the requested service would involve the creation of a cake expressing a sentiment that the baker objects to. To illustrate: Suppose a group of Christians requested the creation of a cake that would express the celebration of the group’s gay conversion program. Suppose the baker denies the request simply because he does not wish to create anything that expresses the sentiment that gay conversion therapy is good. How does that constitute discrimination? After all, he does not deny service because they are Christians. So why would you call that discrimination?

  5. A bakery on S. Broadway denied customer a cake because they wanted it to have a message that the bakery disagreed with. The CO Civil Rights Division decided in favor of this baker, just the opposite of Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who denied making a gay wedding cake. What is the difference? The difference is the CCRD is stacked with pro-gay, liberal Democrats that think it’s ok to discriminate against Christian people. This is about being forced to use your creative talent for something that goes against your conscience and religious beliefs.

  6. Mr. Philips denied service to the gay couple the moment he found out they were gay. Not because of any message they requested him to place on a cake.

    No one is forcing Mr. Phillips to do anything. He participates in the public marketplace voluntarily, there is no right to create or sell wedding cakes, and he therefore has to abide by the laws that govern that marketplace, regardless of his intra-cranial, willfully ignorant, antiquated religious beliefs about gay people being “sinners” for who they are.

    We do not want to bring back Motorist Green Books for gay people, like we used to have for “coloreds”.

  7. L. Rodgers asks, “What is the difference?”

    The answer is admittedly subtle, but nonetheless there really is a difference. And it is this:

    If a non-Christian had gone to that bakery on S. Broadway, and asked for the same anti-gay message on a cake, that baker would have also refused. So there is no evidence that the bakery discriminated against anyone on the basis of their religion. And so the CADA statute would not apply.

    The message that Phillips claims his unadorned cake represents is exactly the same message were he to sell to a heterosexual couple. And he would sell that cake to them. But he chose to discriminate against the homosexual couple, essentially attempting to force his religious beliefs down others’ throats. Which is why he got in trouble with CADA, and why he should lose his appeal.

    Start reading at page 12 of the following:


    Finally, despite Petitioner’s suggestions to the contrary, refusing to create a cake with an anti-gay message is not inherently discriminatory. If a bakery would refuse to create cakes expressing an anti-gay message no matter who asked, it does not engage in religious discrimination by denying such requests—even if the particular client is a devout Christian and the message is a core tenet of his faith.

  8. The brouhaha wouldn’t have happened if the baker had been a good business person and, after being given the date, said, “I’m sorry, I’m slammed that week and can’t take on any more orders. This being Holy Week in the Christian world, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Jesus set an example for us, healing the sick, comforting the afflicted, spending time with a range of people including the marginalized like tax collectors and whores. Yes, he did throw money changers out of the temple in a fit of anger, but mostly we’re talking a guy who just wanted everyone to love God and not put artificial constraints on God’s love.
    So don’t do anything that conflicts with your values, but don’t turn it into a political thing. It’s the political that got Jesus killed, after all.

  9. Deborah Sampson –

    That strategy wouldn’t make the baker a good businessperson; it would make him merely a clever avoider of legal consequences for being a religiously motivated bigot still discriminating against a protected class of the public.

    It’s also a strategy that would only work sporadically. Once a pattern was demonstrated, it is likely the anti-discrimination law would be able to be applied.

  10. @Little Me, we don’t know when he found out they were gay. And there is not one shred of evidence that he denied them service because they were gay. He denies service to straight people too if the requested service involves the creation of a cake that expresses a message he objects to.

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