In 2018, Colorado baker Jack Phillips, a devout Christian, won a victory in the Supreme Court over a case in which he refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple citing his deeply held religious beliefs. On Monday, Phillips went on trial again, this time because a transgender activist wanted him to make a birthday cake and he refused.
In the Masterpiece Cakeshop case of 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission evinced anti-religious bias for targeting Phillips for refusing to make a same-sex wedding cake. The Court did not rule whether a business could claim religious objections permitted them to refuse service to gays or lesbians.
On June 26, 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it would hear Phillips’ case against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which revolved around him turning down a request to make the wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012. After he was targeted by the state of Colorado, Phillips was barred from designing custom wedding cakes, which, as the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) noted, represented around 40% of his business. ADF also noted that one of the commissioners belittled Phillips’ religious freedom defense, calling it a “despicable piece of rhetoric.”
The very day that the Supreme Court decided to hear Phillips’ case, his wife, Debi, got a call from Denver transgender attorney Autumn Scardina asking Phillips to make a birthday cake celebrating Scardina’s “gender transition.”
Over the years, Jack has declined many requests to create cakes that express messages he disagrees with—including Halloween cakes (even though Halloween cakes are a significant source of revenue for many cake shops) and cakes that disparage certain groups of people, including people who identify as LGBT. And in the years since Jack’s first case became public, Masterpiece Cakeshop had received numerous requests from people seeking to harass Jack—requests for cakes depicting drug use, cakes displaying sexually explicit materials, even cakes celebrating Satan or depicting satanic symbols. At least one of these requests (for a cake celebrating Satan) was from the very same attorney (Scardina) who requested the pink and blue gender-transition cake.
Despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled for Phillips, the state of Colorado targeted him again, this time over the “gender transition” cake. That prompted Phillips to file a lawsuit against the state, saying it had violated his First Amendment right to practice his faith and his right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel, the judge in the new lawsuit case, disagreed with state officials, who wanted the case to be dismissed, and let the case move forward, asserting he would issue a ruling later. He stated that the Supreme Court ruling was more relevant to the current case than the state believed.
On Monday, during the virtual trial, Scardina denied that the initial call to Phillips was a “setup,” adding, “It was more of calling someone’s bluff.”
Sean Gates, representing Phillips, stated that he could not create a cake with the message Scardina requested; Gates added, “The message would be that he agrees that a gender transition is something to be celebrated.”