The owners of a Colorado bakery could face up to a year in prison for refusing to make a cake for a gay couple. Dave Mullins, 28, and Daniel Craig, 33, filed a discrimination complaint against Jack Phillips, one of the owners of Masterpiece Cakeshop, for denying them a cake for their Massachusetts wedding.
“Religious freedom is a fundamental right in America and it’s something that we champion at the ACLU,” said Mark Silverstein, the legal director of the group in Colorado, which filed the complaint last year on behalf of Mullins and Craig. “We are all entitled to our religious beliefs and we fight for that. But someone’s personal religious beliefs don’t justify breaking the law by discriminating against others in the public sphere.”
The couple alleges that after looking at pictures of different cakes in the shop, Phillips told them he wouldn’t make a cake after discovering it was to celebrate their wedding in Colorado after being married in Massachusetts. Phillips stated that doing so would violate his Christian beliefs.
“We would close down that bakery before we closed our beliefs,” Phillips told CBS Denver station KCNC-TV.
Despite the Colorado constitution’s ban on gay marriage, civil unions are legal, and the law does not provide religious protection for businesses.
“At its heart, this is a case about conscience,” Nicolle Martin, Phillips’ attorney, said. She cited the importance of the case as more gay couples legally marry across the country. “It brings it to the forefront. I just don’t think that we should heighten one person’s beliefs over and above another person’s beliefs.”
The case gained recognition after Mullins wrote a post about the couple’s experience on Facebook. Local media and bloggers began to circulate the story. The couple’s complaint seeks to compel Masterpiece Cakeshop to cease and desist its refusal to serve gay couples and to make their business open to all customers. If Phillips loses the case and refuses to follow the order, he could face fines of up to $500 per case and up to a year in jail.
“It would force him to choose between his conscience and a paycheck. I just think that’s an intolerable choice,” Martin said.
Republican lawmakers in Colorado have pushed the addition of religious protection for businesses to the civil union law, but Democrats argue that such a provision would merely be a cover for discrimination.