Imagine being told that the love between you and your partner is less legitimate than a dog wedding. Or having your commitment to one another compared to pedophilia.
Stephanie Schmalz and her partner, Jeanine, wanted to order some cupcakes to celebrate their commitment ceremony. They contacted Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood, Colorado, but the store refused to take their order, informing the couple that they have a strict policy against selling cakes for same-sex weddings and ceremonies.
Then Stephanie tried a little experiment. She called the bakery and told the owner, Jack Phillips, that she was planning to host a wedding celebration for two dogs. She told him that the dog wedding cake would need to feed 20 people and should be decorated with the names "Roscoe" and "Buffy." Without hesitation, Phillips quoted her a price and asked how soon she needed it.
When another couple tried to place an order with Phillips, he told them he would not provide a cake for same-sex weddings, the same way he would not provide cakes for pedophiles.
Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop with Charlie's mom to sample wedding cakes, but they, too, were turned away. They decided to call Masterpiece out on its discriminatory policy. After consulting with the ACLU of Colorado and ACLU LGBT Project, they filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD), charging the bakery with violating Colorado law, which prohibits retail businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation. The subsequent CCRD investigation turned up abundant evidence supporting the couple's claim, including an admission from owner Jack Phillips that it is store policy to refuse service to gay couples for weddings or commitment ceremonies.
The CCRD officially concluded that Masterpiece Cakeshop broke the law by discriminating against Charlie and Dave, which prompted the Attorney General's office to file a formal complaint against the bakery this week, an action that will force the owners to explain themselves at a hearing in the fall.
The Masterpiece owners have claimed their policy is based on their "reading of the Word of God." But their business is not a house of worship. Colorado law allows members of the clergy to decide whom they will join in a marriage or civil union – and that's consistent with the principles of religious liberty our nation was founded on. While bakery owners are free to practice their faith and to personally oppose same-sex marriage, they cannot use those beliefs as an excuse to disrespect and discriminate against customers. The store has no more right to turn away a gay couple than to turn away an interracial couple, no matter what the owners' personal beliefs.
Masterpiece Cakeshop has willfully and repeatedly considered itself above the law when it comes to discriminating against customers. We look forward to helping Dave and Charlie prove otherwise at the upcoming hearing.