A Colorado judge determined Friday that a Christian cake artist who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony last year violated discrimination laws, and therefore must serve gay couples or face fines.
Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., discriminated against Dave Mullins, 29, and Charlie Craig, 33, "because of their sexual orientation by refusing to sell them a wedding cake for their same-sex marriage," Judge Robert N. Spencer of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts ruled Friday.
The judge asked Phillips to "cease and desist from further discrimination."
The American Civil Liberties Union had filed a complaint against Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission on behalf of the gay couple, who got married in Massachusetts earlier but wanted to celebrate it in Colorado in July 2012.
Alliance Defending Freedom, which advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, saw the ruling as violating First Amendment freedoms.
"America was founded on the fundamental freedom of every citizen to live and work according to their beliefs," the non-profit said in a statement. "Forcing Americans to promote ideas against their will undermines our constitutionally protected freedom of expression and our right to live free. If the government can take away our First Amendment freedoms, there is nothing it can't take away. We are considering our next steps."
The judge noted that the cake-maker had earlier served cakes for the "marriage" of two dogs, but declined to make cakes for same-sex couples.
"At first blush, it may seem reasonable that a private business should be able to refuse service to anyone it chooses," Spencer wrote in the order. "This view, however, fails to take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are."
"While we all agree that religious freedom is important, no one's religious beliefs make it acceptable to break the law by discriminating against prospective customers," said Amanda C. Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, according to The Associated Press. "No one is asking Masterpiece's owner to change his beliefs, but treating gay people differently because of who they are is discrimination plain and simple."
"Being denied service by Masterpiece Cakeshop was offensive and dehumanizing especially in the midst of arranging what should be a joyful family celebration," Mullins was quoted as saying. "We are grateful to have the support of our community and our state, and we hope that today's decision will help ensure that no one else will experience this kind of discrimination again in Colorado."
However, Phillips' attorney Nicolle Martin said the order forces his client to go against his Christian faith. "He can't violate his conscience in order to collect a paycheck," she was quoted as saying. "If Jack can't make wedding cakes, he can't continue to support his family. And in order to make wedding cakes, Jack must violate his belief system. That is a reprehensible choice. It is antithetical to everything America stands for."
Phillips, who faces a fine if he continues to refuse making cakes for gay couples, is likely to appeal the decision.
Phillips earlier told local CBS Denver station KCNC-TV that his Christian belief does not allow him to support same-sex marriage.
"If gays come in and want to order birthday cakes or any cakes for any occasion, graduations, or whatever, I have no prejudice against that whatsoever," he told the news station. "It's just the wedding cake, not the people, not their lifestyle," he added, saying he would rather "close down the bakery before we would compromise our beliefs."