- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Justice Department has sided with a Christian baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, filing a brief Thursday in the Supreme Court backing the baker.

The Trump administration said trying to force Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker, to make a cake for someone against his beliefs violates his conscience rights.

“Just as the government may not compel the dissemination of expression, it equally may not compel the creation of expression. Compelling a creative process is no less an intrusion — and perhaps is a greater one — on the ‘individual freedom of mind’ that the First Amendment protects,” the Justice Department’s brief says.

Mr. Phillips refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, drawing the ire of a Colorado civil rights commission that said he was illegally discriminating in his business practices. Courts have upheld the commission’s ruling, and Mr. Phillips has appealed to the Supreme Court.

The baker says he’s been ordered to either bake wedding cakes for everyone — or bake none at all.

The Justice Department’s brief raises the possibility that the government will also ask for time to argue in front of the justices when the case goes for oral argument.

A department spokeswoman declined to say whether they’ve asked for time.

Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the Justice Department’s intervention in the case “shocking.”

“What the Trump Administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate,” said Ms. Melling. “We are confident that the Supreme Court will rule on the side of equal rights just as the lower courts have.”

In addition to the Justice Department, 20 states also filed an amicus brief backing Mr. Phillips.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led the brief, which was joined by attorneys general from Arizona, Alabama, Idaho, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Montana, Missouri, Nevada, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Utah, and by Governor Paul LePage of Maine.

The states said the “compulsion of speech is constitutionally forbidden.”

“Government power to order individuals to speak in a manner that violates their conscience is fundamentally at odds with the freedom of expression and tolerance for a diversity of viewpoints that this Nation has long enjoyed and promoted,” the states’ brief read.

Some 86 members of Congress, all Republicans, also filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the baker on Thursday.

Court watchers are highly anticipating the ruling in Mr. Phillips’ case, as several legal challenges are being filed in states across the country, including one appeal by a Washington florist, who say they have a constitutional right to refuse to participate in same-sex weddings against their religious beliefs.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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