Trump administration files brief in support of baker who refused service to same-sex couple
On Thursday, the Trump administration announced its support for a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, the Washington Post reported.
The Justice Department filed what is known as an amicus brief on behalf of Jack Phillips, the baker at Masterpiece Cakeshop, after he refused to bake a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins in 2012.
At the time, Phillips said he doesn’t create wedding cakes for same-sex couples because it would violate his religious beliefs. However, as Buzzfeed explained, Colorado’s public accommodation law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. Moreover, the courts in that state have previously ruled that public businesses cannot refuse service to same-sex couples seeking their services.
According to court records, Phillips told the men, “I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies; I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.”
In the brief, Justice Department lawyers argued that it would create an “intrusion” on the First Amendment “where a public accommodations law compels someone to create expression for a particular person or entity and to participate, literally or figuratively, in a ceremony or other expressive event.”
“Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights,” the lawyers added, Buzzfeed noted.
Phillips, according to The Hill, will appear before the Supreme Court later this term. Phillips previously explained that he’s lost 40% of his business and most of his staff following his refusal to bake the cake.
“We know tolerance is a two-way street and dignity cuts both ways,” Phillips’ attorney, Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Hill. Waggoner further noted that her client should be able to retain his right First Amendment rights and make decisions based on his own beliefs.
“We need to protect the right of all Americans to live and work consistent with their religious beliefs and not force creative professions to create visual art that violates who they are,” Waggoner said.
Despite the fact that the Trump administration has made several moves targeting the LGBTQ community in recent months, including implementing a ban on transgender military members, Louise Melling, deputy legal counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Washington Post that she’s still surprised to see this filing come through.
“Even in an administration that has already made its hostility [clear], I find this nothing short of shocking,” Melling said.
A Justice Department official told BuzzFeed, the agency filed because “the First Amendment protects the right of free expression for all Americans.” The official added, “Although public-accommodations laws serve important purposes, they — like other laws — must yield to the individual freedoms that the First Amendment guarantees. That includes the freedom not to create expression for ceremonies that violate one’s religious beliefs.”