Colorado Baker Loses Appeal Over Transgender Cake

January 27, 2023

A Colorado baker who had won a narrow Supreme Court ruling over his refusal to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on Thursday lost his appeal in a separate case over his refusal to bake a cake to celebrate a gender transition.

The Colorado Court of Appeals agreed with a trial judge that Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner Jack Phillips violated Autumn Scardina’s rights by denying her service because of her identity as a transgender woman.

Lawyers for the baker, who was fined $500, had argued that he refused service based on his Christian beliefs and that forcing him to make a cake celebrating a gender transition would violate his First Amendment rights.

But Judge Timothy Schutz, writing for the appeals court’s three-judge panel, said the pink cake with blue frosting Scardina requested expressed no message or imagery with any inherent meaning that would violate Phillips’ rights.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in Phillips’ favor in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, saying that Colorado’s constitution had violated its obligation to treat religious expression neutrally when its Civil Rights Commission ordered Phillips to serve same-sex weddings.

At the time, however, the high court did not rule on the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to LGBTQ people. This year, though, the Justices will get the chance to do so in the case of Creative LLC v Elenis, in which a Christian conservative graphics artist objects to designing wedding websites for same-sex couples.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in that case last month, but has yet to rule on whether web designer Lorie Smith must offer “speech” for those whom she would otherwise refuse (LGBTQ customers).

In the meantime, Phillips’ lawyers have vowed to appeal the Colorado Court of Appeals’ ruling in the case of Scardina v Masterpiece.

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