Opponents in LGBT case agree: It's not about wedding cake

David Mullins and Charlie Craig in a television interview. Photo by David Zalubowski, AP.

In a legal case with profound implications for LGBT rights and religion's place in public life, the opposing sides agree on this: It's not about the cake.

At its core, the case that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court for oral arguments on Dec. 5 is a showdown between a gay couple from Colorado and a Denver-area baker who in 2012 cited his Christian faith in refusing to make a cake for their wedding celebration.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, was judged through multiple phases of litigation to have violated Colorado's anti-discrimination law. Through his lawyers, he now gets to argue before the highest court in the land that he's an artist who should not be compelled to create a cake that contradicts his religious views.

For Phillips' legion of supporters — including conservative politicians, advocacy groups and religious institutions — the case has ramifications for creative professionals of all kinds.

"Every American should be free to choose which art they will create and which art they won't create without fear of being unjustly punished by the government," Phillips recently told a rally of local supporters.

For advocates of LGBT rights, the stakes are perilously high. They fear a Supreme Court ruling in Phillips' favor would open the door to discrimination by a wide range of business owners and entrepreneurs.

"Cakes can often have artistic or creative designs. So can sandwiches, legal briefs, bicycles, cars, flowers, medical care," American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Chase Strangio argued in a recent blog post.

"If a baker can reject LGBTQ people because of who we are, then what about the mechanic, the florist, the doctor, the teacher?" Strangio asked. "This is not about cake. This is not about art. This is about survival."

Phillips still stoutly defends his 2012 rebuff of David Mullins and Charlie Craig, saying he offered to sell them virtually any of his baked goods except a custom cake for their wedding.

"I don't create custom designs for events or messages that conflict with my conscience," he said at the recent rally of his supporters. "I don't create cakes for Halloween, bachelor or bachelorette parties, and anti-American cakes. I've turned down a cake order for an anti-LGBT message."

To the other side, Phillips' arguments seem like an invitation to intolerance.

"This case is not about a cake. It's not about a baker," Craig says. "It's about us being able to be free to be treated equally in the public realm."

By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer
Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved.
The Gayly 12/2/2018 @5:34 p.m.