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Denver Post: Wedding cakes for everyone

Published December 11, 2013 4:36 pm

The Denver Post
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If you're going to sell wedding cakes in Colorado, you have to sell them to everyone who comes into your shop. You can't pick and choose among customers based upon your belief that some weddings are immoral.

That's the principle that administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer reinforced with his recent ruling that the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood must sell wedding cakes to gay couples. It's the right call — and not even a close one in our view.

Cake-maker Jack Phillips refused to sell a wedding cake to two gay men in July 2012, and has been arguing since that his religious objection to same-sex marriage provides him with a constitutional exemption to the state's public accommodation law.

He also argues that selling such a cake would violate his right to free expression, as it would amount, in his view, to an endorsement of same-sex marriage.

But as Judge Spencer explains, our society settled this matter some time ago. If such arguments were correct, Spencer notes, "it would allow a business that served all races to nonetheless refuse to serve an interracial couple because of the business owner's bias against interracial marriage."

Masterpiece Cakeshop is a commercial enterprise, not a religious institution, even if Phillips believes he honors God through his artistic efforts in cake decoration.

It's not as if a baker is necessarily obliged to follow a customer's every request. As the judge noted, Phillips' attorney raised the specter of a black baker being required "to make a cake bearing a white supremacist message for a member of the Aryan Nation" and an Islamic baker being required "to make a cake denigrating the Koran for the Westboro Baptist Church."

But as Spencer responded, the problem with that line of argument is that the gay couple's order never got to the stage of discussing what would be on the cake. At that point a baker's "free speech right to refuse" might kick in, depending on the nature of the request.

Instead, Phillips announced preemptively that "I just don't make cakes for same-sex weddings." He refused to bake a wedding cake for the couple "regardless of what was written on it or what it looked like," the judge said.

It is not unusual for merchants to deal with people whose values or behavior they disapprove of. If you're in business, though, you have a duty to sell your wares to all comers.




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