Jun 26, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court today announced that it will hear an appeal in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case of a Colorado baker who claimed his religious beliefs justified his refusal to serve same-sex couples.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the high court should use the case to make it clear that religious-freedom claims don’t override antidiscrimination laws.

“The owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop can’t treat some people like second-class citizens because of his religion,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “With the eyes of the nation and history watching, the Supreme Court now has the opportunity to join lower courts in affirming that religious freedom does not grant a business owner license to harm others.”

Continued Lynn, “Religious freedom – the right to believe or not as you see fit – is a fundamental American value. And finding a partner to love and to marry is a fundamental part of the American dream for many. Our country’s laws should provide everyone with access to both.”

After the Colorado Civil Rights Commission found that the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop had violated the state’s antidiscrimination law, the baker appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals. Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief with that court.

“(A)ccepting Masterpiece Cakeshop’s argument would allow nearly any business alleging similar concerns to discriminate as it pleased,” AU wrote in the brief. “Lesbians and gay men (as well as others protected by antidiscrimination statutes) would not know which businesses were open to them, and could not expect the law to consistently protect their rights to access public accommodations on the same terms as other citizens.”

AU’s brief was filed through our Protect Thy Neighbor project, which seeks to stop religion-based discrimination against LGBTQ people and others.