USA: Colorado court denies appeal of baker who refused to bake cake for transgender woman
The Colorado Court of Appeals Thursday denied a baker’s appeal over his refusal to bake a transgender birthday cake. Masterpiece Cakeshop, run by Jack Phillips, was denied an appeal following the trial court’s ruling that the shop discriminated against Autumn Scardina when they refused to bake and sell her a blue and pink birthday cake. When ordering the cake, Phillips agreed to provide the custom cake until Scardina shared the symbolism of her color choice—that it represented her transgender identity.
After determining that the colors of the cake, along with no symbols or writing, did not violate Phillips’ freedom of religion, the trial court ordered Phillips to pay a $500 fine. Phillips attempted to pay the fine while still contending that his bakery did not violate the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). Scardina refused the payment, and the trial court held that the fines did not negate Scardina’s original discrimination claims. The trial court did not offer a final judgement, but dismissed the case.
Phillips filed an appeal on the basis that the attempt to pay the fine, though rejected, rendered Scardina’s claim moot, that he did not in fact violate CADA, that the ruling violated his right to be free from compelled speech, and that CADA itself violates Phillips’ right to freedom of religion.
The appeals court rejected the contention that Phillips’ attempt to pay Scardina rendered her claim moot. The court reasoned that CADA was not designed primarily to compensate individual claimants, but rather to implement the broad policy eliminating intentional or discriminatory practices.
The court rejected the claim that Phillips did not violate CADA—finding that the baker’s original agreement to make the cake was only rescinded after finding out Scardina’s transgender status.
The appeals court also rejected the claim that baking the cake would constitute a violation of the right of freedom from compelled speech. Phillips’ testimony in court was that he would make the same cake for any other customer, and that the colors of the cake had no inherent meaning outside of its context. A pink and blue cake does not rise to the level of protected speech, and thus does not violate Phillips’ right to freedom from compelled speech, according to the court.
Finally, the claim that baking this cake would violate Phillips’ freedom of religion was rejected on the basis that the cake expressed no message, religious or secular.
This case follows a previous action against Masterpiece Cakeshop heard in the US Supreme Court in 2018, which ruled in favor of Phillip who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
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