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SCOTUS Hears Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

A Colorado law professor says this U.S. Supreme Court decision could have broad implications for anti-discrimination laws across the nation. (Getty Images)
A Colorado law professor says this U.S. Supreme Court decision could have broad implications for anti-discrimination laws across the nation. (Getty Images)
December 5, 2017

DENVER – The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments today in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case that will determine if Jack Phillips - the owner of a Lakewood bakery - was justified in refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his faith.

Craig Konnoth, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Law School, says the court's decision could have broad implications for anti-discrimination laws in Colorado and across the nation.

"What this law and laws like it do, they're basically trying to address that history of discrimination and protect LGBT individuals in a range of areas," he explains. "So if they want to go the doctor, a grocery store, or a restaurant, this law prevents them from being kicked out."

Colorado law prohibits businesses like Masterpiece from discriminating based on a range of characteristics, including race, sex, nationality, religion and sexual orientation.

Phillips' lawyer claims that the baker is an artist and should not be forced to express what the government dictates. An amicus brief filed on behalf of 20 states, and a brief from the U.S. Justice Department, make similar arguments.

Konnoth disagrees and says a cake ordered at a bakery serving the general public does not represent the expression of the shop owner.

"When I hire a baker, when I hire someone to make a billboard, I'm not hiring them to give their speech, I'm hiring them so that my speech can be expressed," he says. "So I think that they're wrong in saying this is the baker's speech as opposed to this being the couple's speech."

In the Colorado Court of Appeals' 2015 ruling, justices cited a 1964 challenge to the Civil Rights Act where a court ruled that a business owner could not refuse to serve black people based on religious beliefs. Justices said Phillips could voice his opposition to gay marriage on a sign or on the store's website, but "picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation" was against Colorado law.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO