Christian baker's lawsuit against Colorado can proceed, court says

As long as it's the principle (and I think it is).

Remember Jack Phillips, the Christian proprietor of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado? 

He refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding and was found by various authorities of the State of Colorado to be in violation of the state Civil Rights Statute. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last summer that, in fact, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had violated Mr. Phillips' First Amendment rights.

Not an actual cake by Masterpiece Cakeshop.

As I reported last August
, on the same day that the Supreme Court agreed to review his case, a transgender woman called the Masterpiece Cakeshop seeking to order a cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate her transition from male to female. Mr. Phillips believes, based on his religious convictions, that marriage should be between one man and one woman, and that an individual's sex is an immutable characteristic given by God.

Mr. Phillips refused to make the transgender cake (although he offered to sell the customer a pre-made cake), and the customer filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Twenty-four days after the U.S. Supreme Court had found in Mr. Phillips' favor in the same-sex wedding cake case, the Colorado Commission found probable cause to believe he had discriminated unlawfully against the transgender customer. Then it elected to file a formal complaint against him, even though it could have declined to do so and the customer would have retained the right to file a lawsuit on her own.

So, last August, Mr. Phillips went on offense, filing a federal lawsuit against the individual members of the Civil Rights Commission, the Attorney General, and the Governor under the First Amendment (religion and speech), and the Fourteenth Amendment (due process and equal protection).

The second lawsuit is Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc. v. Elenis. I'll call it "Masterpiece II" for short. Here are the amended lawsuit (filed in October) and Exhibits A and B.

The Defendants asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, but last week U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Y. Daniel ruled that most of the lawsuit could proceed, finding that Mr. Phillips had sufficiently alleged that the Commission acted in bad faith by pursuing the transgender case and had violated his constitutional rights.

(Because the judge was ruling on a motion filed in the very early stages of the lawsuit, he was required to assume that Mr. Phillips' allegations were true. At a later point, the Defendants will have the opportunity to present evidence that the Commission did not act in bad faith or otherwise violate Mr. Phillips' rights.)

Judge Daniel dismissed Mr. Phillips' claims against the Governor, and his claims for monetary damages against the individual Commissioners. Mr. Phillips -- who is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom -- can continue to seek a preliminary and permanent injunction, and a declaration from the court that the Defendants violated his rights.

Image Credit: From flickr, Creative Commons license, by Rexness. (Cake is not from Masterpiece Cakeshop.)   

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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