Supreme Court justices voted Monday to hear an appeal from the owner of a Colorado bakery who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
The case will consider whether shop owner Jack Phillips, who objects to same-sex marriage based on his religious beliefs, can refuse to bake a cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins’ same-sex marriage.
Phillips says that his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion were violated when the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in August 2015 that he was required to bake a wedding cake for the gay couple under Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act.
The baker says he honors God through the art of decorating cakes, and that it would displease God if he were to bake a cake for a gay marriage.
“I feel that the Bible is clear — what God defines marriage as,” Phillips said in 2015. “For me to violate that would be for me to rebel against God, to take what he’s designed and say it doesn’t matter.”
But Craig and Mullins claim they were discriminated against by the baker for his refusal to make a cake for them in 2012.
Colorado is one of 22 states with “public accommodations” laws that prohibit businesses from denying service to customers based on sexual orientation.
Despite the ruling, Phillips has refused to bake the cake for the couple.
“They said you have to create cakes for same-sex couples, so he removed himself from the market. He chose to stop making wedding cakes,” said Jeremy Todesco, a lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom, who appealed for Phillips on his behalf.
Lawyers for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the American Civil Liberties Union, who support the gay couple, say a “gaping hole” in civil rights laws would be opened if business owners were allowed to cite religious beliefs as a basis for denying service to certain customers.
The Supreme Court turned down an opportunity to hear a similar case in 2015 from a wedding photographer in New Mexico.
Since then, the issue of whether businesses should be forced to service same-sex weddings has arisen in many states.
The high court will hear arguments for the case in its upcoming 2017 term, which begins in October.
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