Do Bakers Have to Make Cakes for Gay Weddings?

The New York Times recently reported on a baker in Lakewood, Colorado who refuses to take orders for cakes for same-sex weddings. (He also refuses to make Halloween or erotic-themed baked goods.)

Gay Wedding CakeThe baker, Jack Phillips, is an evangelical Christian. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that he'd violated a state law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in "places of public accommodation."

The Commission ordered Phillips to retrain his employees (including his 87-year-old mother) to comply with the law, and to report quarterly on any "refusals to bake."

In response, Phillips stopped taking any wedding cake orders and appealed the ruling in state court.The case is one of several recent disputes involving a clash of civil liberties.

Same-Sex Marriages

It's now legal for same-sex couples to marry in 35 US states and the District of Columbia.

In an additional ten states, judges have ruled in favor of gay marriage but many of the rulings have been stayed (put on hold) as they're appealed to higher courts.

64% of US citizens now live in states where marriage licenses will be issued to same-sex couples.

However, some say that the laws and legal decisions authorizing gay marriage infringe the rights of those who oppose them on religious grounds.

When Rights Collide

As reported by The Washington Post, conservative lawmakers in some states are trying to assure that businesses and individuals can refuse to provide goods and services to same-sex couples without violating the civil rights laws that protect same-sex couples from discrimination.

One such law, which its opponents called a "right to discriminate" measure, was vetoed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer – herself a conservative Republican. The bill would have expanded the state's definition of "exercise of religion" to protect businesses and state citizens from being sued for denying services on religious grounds.

Supporters of the Arizona bill wrote to Gov. Brewer:

While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens' religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword of religious intolerance.

The president of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council reportedly said that four companies considering relocating to Arizona had told him that they might go elsewhere if the bill was passed. The National Football League also suggested that it might move the 2015 Super Bowl to a non-Arizona location if the bill became law.

Other examples of related legislation include:

  • In North Carolina, a state legislator wants to allow individual government clerks to be excused from issuing same-sex marriage licenses, even though the marriages are now legal in the state.
  • In Michigan, the state House passed a bill that would allow religious adoption agencies to refuse to place children with gay couples.

If you feel your rights have been violated…

If you feel that your rights have been violated – either because you were refused service because of your sexual orientation, or because you feel that being compelled to serve certain customers violates your freedom of religion, you may wish to contact a civil rights lawyer for advice on how to proceed.

  

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