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Colorado Baker Refuses to Bake Cake for Transgender Transition Celebration

March 15th, 2023

The Supreme Court will hear a case brought by a Christian website designer who wants to be able to refuse service to LGBTQ customers.
A Colorado baker is facing a lawsuit again, this time for his refusal to bake a cake for a transgender transition celebration.

One particular baker has once again become intertwined with legal questions about religious rights and the First Amendment. In 2012, a same-sex couple tried to have this baker make them a cake for their upcoming wedding. The baker refused, and ever since then, this individual has been fighting numerous lawsuits against LGBTQ folks who want him to serve them. The most recent lawsuit involves something altogether new – a cake intended to help celebrate a transgender transition. 

Masterpiece Cakeshop is No Stranger to Controversy

You might remember the name “Masterpiece Cakeshop” from headlines around the world. This Colorado-based baker was sued by a same-sex couple after he refused to make them a cake for their upcoming wedding. Initially, the plaintiffs won – with courts determining that:

  • Sexual orientation is a protected class according to Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws
  • The act of making the cake was part of the expected conduct of the baker’s business
  • Making a custom cake is not considered an expression of free speech
  • Making a custom cake is not considered an exercise of religious belief
  • The customers provided no instructions for specific messages condoning homosexuality on the top of the cake

Masterpiece Cakeshop then petitioned the US Supreme Court for review. Despite serious pressure, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. This is when the baker’s luck turned. The Supreme Court ordered that the previous decision be reversed. The reason was simple: The baker’s religious freedoms had been violated by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s conduct in evaluating the complaint.

Masterpiece Faces a New Legal Battle over a Transgender Transition Cake 

Amazingly, someone else decided to request a cake from this store on the same day the Supreme Court announced it would hear the baker’s appeal. This individual was a transgender woman and a lawyer in Colorado. Due to her profession, it is likely that the request was made with the full knowledge that the baker would refuse to make the cake. The cake was supposed to celebrate the transition of the transgender individual, and the customer made this clear to the baker. Indeed, the lawyer admitted that she made the request to “challenge the veracity” of the baker’s claim that he would serve LGBTQ customers as long as it did not involve compromising his own religious values. 

Once again, the Colorado courts took the side of the plaintiff, supporting the claim that her civil rights had been violated. The goal was likely to have the courts revisit the earlier Supreme Court decision, but the plaintiff was forced to pursue a civil action against Masterpiece instead. This led to various fines against the baker, and in 2022 the Colorado Court of Appeals heard the case. Finally, on January 26, 2023, it was determined that a pink-and-blue cake was not a form of protected speech – much like the previous decision. It is likely that Masterpiece will continue to appeal these decisions. 

Unresolved Issues before the Supreme Court

This case is one of several lawsuits that have arisen in the last few years involving a business refusing service to same-sex couples. While there have been several significant advancements regarding LGBTQ rights within the last few years, most significantly with the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling bringing marriage equality to all 50 states, most states still lack non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and there is no federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This puts many same-sex couples in legal limbo, even if they are able to get married.

Last year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving a Christian website designer who refused to design a wedding website for an LGBTQ couple. It remains to be seen whether the outcome of this case will resolve how courts should balance federal First Amendment rights against state anti-discrimination laws, and it may also weigh provisions in the federal Fourteenth Amendment concerning equal protection of the law. The Universal Life Church’s blog aims to follow these developments closely to keep our readers informed.

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