Icing on the Cake: Justice Dept. Backs Christian Baker Bound for Supreme Court
Trump administration sides with Masterpiece Cakeshop’s religious liberty claim for refusing same-sex wedding clients.
A Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding has a major backer as his case heads to the US Supreme Court this fall: the Trump administration.
The Department of Justice has sided with Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, arguing that governments “may not … truncate the First Amendment by compelling a person to create a piece of artwork—particularly one that violates the artist’s conscience.”
The amicus brief, issued last Thursday by several leaders in the office of the Solicitor General and the office of the Attorney General, is among 45 filed in support of the Colorado baker’s religious and artistic freedom.
“This case happens to arise in the context of expression regarding same-sex marriage,” the Trump administration officials state. “But the First Amendment principles that control here transcend, and will long outlast, the nation’s current dialogue about same-sex marriage.”
The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, represents the highest-profile clash between religious convictions and LGBT protections since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.
The high court’s decision will impact wedding vendors across the country who do not want to service same-sex celebrations because of their religious convictions on marriage. Fellow bakers, photographers, and florists have challenged anti-LGBT discrimination laws in lower courts.
“We hope the US Supreme Court will consider the arguments in these briefs and declare that the government cannot force Jack to surrender his freedom in order to run his family business,” said Kristen Waggoner, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel and Phillip’s lawyer.
“Regardless of one’s view on marriage, all Americans should support Jack,” she said. “To have First Amendment freedoms for ourselves, we must respect those same freedoms for people with whom we disagree on important issues.”
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, as well as the lower rulings in its favor, instead argue that for-profit businesses remain subject to antidiscrimination rules designed to protect race, sex, and sexuality.
Phillips and his supporters claim that he is not discriminating against LGBT customers; he’d happily bake for a gay couple, just not for their wedding since he views that as an endorsement of their marriage.
Americans are evenly split on the issue: about half (49%) say wedding vendors should be required to serve same-sex couples, while nearly as many (48%) say they should be able to refuse on religious grounds, according to the Pew Research Center.
Last month, a Wisconsin judge ruled in favor of an evangelical wedding photographer who declined to work on same-sex weddings. Because she did not operate a storefront, the public accommodation antidiscrimination laws did not apply, the court decided.