David Mullins and Charlie Craig

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Location: Colorado
Court Type: U.S. Supreme Court
Status: Closed (Judgment)
Last Update: June 4, 2018

What's at Stake

Whether a business open to the public has a constitutional right to discriminate.

Summary

David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in July 2012, with Charlie’s mother, to order a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. Dave and Charlie planned to marry in Massachusetts and then celebrate with family and friends back home in Colorado. But bakery owner Jack Phillips informed them that the bakery wouldn’t sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples.

Longstanding Colorado state law prohibits public accommodations, including businesses open to the public such as Masterpiece Cakeshop, from refusing service based on characteristics like race, religion, or sexual orientation. Dave and Charlie filed complaints with the Colorado Civil Rights Division contending that the bakery violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act. Following an investigation and hearings, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission determined that the bakery illegally discriminated against Dave and Charlie when it refused them service.

On August 13, 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the Commission’s order, finding that the bakery discriminated because of sexual orientation in violation of state law. The court also concluded that application of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act did not infringe the bakery’s freedom of speech or free exercise of religion. The Colorado Supreme Court denied review, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari on June 26, 2017.

Update (6/2/18): The Supreme Court reversed the decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, based on concerns specific to the case.

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