- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Jack Phillips, a Christian baker in Colorado who has been caught up in lawsuits for nearly a decade, will appeal a court ruling this week that his refusal to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition is in violation of state law.

Judge A. Bruce Jones of the Denver District Court said Masterpiece Cakeshop, owned by Mr. Phillips, refused to serve Autumn Scardina, a transgender female, because of her transgender status.

She had requested a birthday cake that was pink, a color traditionally associated with a female, on the inside, but blue, or male, on the outside. The cake was intended to celebrate not only her birthday but her transition from male to female.

“Defendants testified that they declined the requested cake based on the message they believed it would have conveyed — that a person can change genders and that a gender transition should be celebrated,” the judge wrote in his ruling on Wednesday. “In consideration of all of the facts of this case, the Court orders Defendants to pay Ms. Scardina $500.”

Mr. Phillips refuses to create custom cakes that violate his religious beliefs, saying to do so would run afoul of his First Amendment rights. The crux of Mr. Phillips‘ claim is that he can’t create a cake that symbolizes a message he disagrees with based on his faith.

His attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty firm, have defended Mr. Phillips in another case involving a same-sex couple since 2012. In that case, Mr. Phillips, citing his religious views about marriage, down a request for a custom wedding cake from the same-sex couple.

Courts in Colorado ruled against Mr. Phillips at the time, saying that based on public accommodation laws, he had discriminated against the couple.

The case went to the Supreme Court where the justices ruled Mr. Phillips had a biased hearing in Colorado, remanding the case for reconsideration.

After finding out Mr. Phillips prevailed at the high court, Ms. Scardina called the bakery and requested the gender transition cake.

She did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Times.

Mr. Phillips‘ attorneys have argued it was a “set up” by an activist.

But Judge Jones disagreed.

“The Court specifically finds that Ms. Scardina‘s request was a not ‘set-up’ to initiate litigation,” the opinion read. “Ms. Scardina was seeking to ‘challenge the veracity’ of Mr. Phillips‘ statements that he is willing to serve people who identify as LGBT and ‘call [his] bluff.’”

Mr. Phillips‘ attorney Kristen Waggoner said they’ll appeal.

Jack Phillips serves all people but shouldn’t be forced to create custom cakes with messages that violate his conscience,” she said. “Radical activists and government officials are targeting artists like Jack because they won’t promote messages on marriage and sexuality that violate their core convictions.”

ADF also represents Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Washington, who refuses to participate in weddings for same-sex couples.

Her case has been pending at the Supreme Court since last September after she appealed a lower court ruling against her.

If the case is granted review, it would give the justices a chance to settle the dispute between public accommodation laws and First Amendment rights.

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

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