The order from administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer said Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver discriminated against a couple “because of their sexual orientation by refusing to sell them a wedding cake for their same-sex marriage.”
The order says the cake-maker must “cease and desist from discriminating” against gay couples. Although the judge did not impose fines in this case, the business will face penalties if it continues to turn away gay couples who want to buy cakes.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against shop owner Jack Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission last year on behalf of Charlie Craig, 33, and David Mullins, 29. The couple was married in Massachusetts and wanted a wedding cake to celebrate in Colorado.
Mullins and Craig wanted to buy a cake in July 2012, but when Phillips found out the cake was to celebrate a gay wedding, he turned the couple away, according to the complaint.
Nicolle Martin, an attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop, said the judge’s order puts Phillips in an impossible position of going against his Christian faith.
“He can’t violate his conscience in order to collect a paycheck,” she said. “If Jack can’t make wedding cakes, he can’t continue to support his family. And in order to make wedding cakes, Jack must violate his belief system. That is a reprehensible choice. It is antithetical to everything America stands for.”
The Civil Rights Commission is expected to certify the judge’s order next week. Phillips can appeal the judge’s order, and Martin said they’re considering their next steps.
Mullins said he and Craig are “ecstatic.”
“To a certain extent, though, I don’t think that this is necessarily a surprise,” he said. “We thought it was pretty clear cut that he had discriminated against us.”
Mullins said he hopes the “decision will help ensure that no one else will experience this kind of discrimination again in Colorado.”
A similar case is pending in Washington state, where a florist is accused of refusing service for a same-sex wedding. In New Mexico, the state Supreme Court ruled in August that an Albuquerque business was wrong to decline to photograph a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony.
Colorado has a constitutional ban against gay marriage but allows civil unions. The civil union law, which passed earlier this year, does not provide religious protections for businesses.
“At first blush, it may seem reasonable that a private business should be able to refuse service to anyone it chooses,” Judge Spencer said in his written order. “This view, however, fails to take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are.”
ACLU attorney Amanda Goad said no one is asking Phillips to change his religious beliefs.
“But treating gay people differently because of who they are is discrimination, plain and simple,” she said.