Colorado has announced it is dropping litigation against Christian baker Jack Phillips for his refusal on religious grounds to make a cake celebrating gender transition.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that Mr. Phillips had been unjustly punished for refusing to make a same-sex wedding cake in 2012, Phillips was assailed with requests to make cakes celebrating Satan, marijuana, and sexually explicit imagery, with some of these requests reportedly coming from a transgender Colorado lawyer, Autumn Scardina.
Among her other requests, Ms. Scardina asked Phillips to make her a cake celebrating the anniversary of her gender transition from male to female, with a blue exterior and a pink interior. When Mr. Phillips refused, Scardina filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission alleging that the Christian baker’s actions were discriminatory.
The Commission then launched an administrative action against Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner, Jack Phillips, saying there was probable cause that Phillips discriminated against Scardina based on gender identity.
By turning away Scardina, Phillips “denied her equal enjoyment of a place of public accommodation,” stated Aubrey Elenis, director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, in her ruling.
At this point Mr. Phillips initiated a civil lawsuit against the State of Colorado, saying he was the victim of “Colorado’s unconstitutional bullying” that attacked his rights to freedom of speech, religion, equal protection, and due process.
“I know I wasn’t alone, and I know we all have the right to decline a message that we don’t support,” he said. “The Supreme Court told the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that they were hostile to my space, and they can’t do that. And here they are again showing hostility against me and my patrons.”
In a press release Tuesday, the state office announced that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission will voluntarily drop its case against Phillips and, in return, Phillips will end his federal lawsuit against the state.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, whose office was representing the commission, said that “both sides agreed it was not in anyone’s best interest to move forward with these cases.”
“The larger constitutional issues might well be decided down the road, but these cases will not be the vehicle for resolving them. Equal justice for all will continue to be a core value that we will uphold as we enforce our state’s and nation’s civil rights laws,” Weiser declared.
“We’re pleased that the state will be dismissing its case against Jack,” said Kristen Waggoner, the Alliance Defending Freedom attorney who argued on behalf of Phillips before the Supreme Court.
“This is the second time the state has launched a failed effort to prosecute him. While it finally appears to be getting the message that its anti-religious hostility has no place in our country, the state’s decision to target Jack has cost him more than six-and-a-half years of his life, forcing him to spend that time tied up in legal proceedings,” she said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome