Brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

October 30, 2017

Today, community organizations across Colorado, along with current and former Colorado legislators, submitted a friend-of-the-court-brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, an important case going before the U.S. Supreme Court about a Lakewood-based baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple, citing his religious beliefs. The Court will review a decision from the Colorado Court of Appeals, which found that the bakery discriminated against Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, a same-sex couple, by refusing to sell them a wedding cake.

One Colorado released the following statement — along with others involved in submitting the brief — reaffirming the importance of preserving protections currently in Colorado law to ensure that no one faces discrimination because of who they are.

Daniel Ramos, Executive Director, One Colorado:

“Since 1992, when Amendment 2 passed in our state, LGBTQ Coloradans and their families have led the way in determining the protections LGBTQ people across this country are afforded through the courts. All hardworking people, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, should be treated fairly and equally under the law. When they walk into a business that’s open to the public, they should be treated like anyone else and not be discriminated against.

“Freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, which is why it’s protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. But that freedom does not give any of us the right to harm other people, to impose our beliefs on others, or to discriminate. As a nation, we decided a long time ago that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms. Nobody should be turned away from a business, denied service, fired from their job, or evicted from their home simply because of who they are.”

Pat Steadman, former state senator:

“Creating exceptions to anti-discrimination laws is a dangerous thing. Unless our laws protect everyone equally they end up protecting no one at all. The stakes, in this case, couldn’t be higher because the exception sought by the bakery creates a loophole big enough to drive a truck through. And it isn’t just LGBT folks that will fall through that loophole; all civil rights protections for all protected classes are at risk. Fortunately, as our brief makes clear, a long line of Court precedent has established that anti-discrimination laws must be applied even-handed and without special exceptions for people who somehow think they’re more special than others.”

Craig Konnoth, Professor, CU Law and drafter of the amicus brief:

“Our brief is fundamentally about fairness and treating all Coloradans equally. Creating a right that allows individuals to violate democratically enacted laws whenever they want, by claiming speech or their religion gives them permission, will open a can of worms that hurt all of the society, especially members of minority groups like LGBTQ Coloradans.”

Here’s how the brief sums up the main argument:

Colorado has a compelling interest in protecting the rights of all of its citizens. LGBT Coloradans have the same right to dignity and participation in the public sphere that CADA assures to all other citizens of the State. Creating a carve-out to permit discrimination against LGBT people would deny them that essential dignity, and threaten the civil rights laws themselves.