Christian cake artist Jack Phillips is suing the state of Colorado, with his lawyers arguing on Tuesday that he has no choice but to defend himself over new threats.
Phillips, who earlier this year won a Supreme Court battle over his refusal to make gay marriage cakes that go against his religious convictions, filed the lawsuit over the state’s latest threats to punish him for refusing to make a gender transition cake.
"At this point, he's just a guy who is trying to get back to life. The problem is the state of Colorado won't let him," said Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jim Campbell, representing Phillips, according to The Associated Press.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission has argued that Phillips discriminated against Denver attorney Autumn Scardina, who wanted the baker to make a cake last year that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside. The dessert was meant to symbolize Scardina’s transition from male to female.
Phillips' attorneys say that their client "believes as a matter of religious conviction that sex — the status of being male or female — is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed.”
The lawsuit is asking $100,000 in punitive damages from Aubrey Elenis, director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, for continuing to violate his First Amendment right to practice his faith and 14th Amendment right to equal protection.
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed due to state efforts to enforce its order against Phillips.
Deputy Attorney General LeeAnn Morrill told Senior U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Y. Daniel that the commission is looking at anti-discrimination laws it alleges Phillips is violating and insisted the case is not about religion.
The judge cited the Supreme Court justices' opinions from the 7-2 ruling in favor of Phillips in June during Tuesday's hearing and mentioned now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy's conclusion that the commission had shown "hostility" toward religion.
“I’m inclined to deny the motion to dismiss,” Daniel said.
Another hearing in the case is scheduled for February.
As ADF explains on its website, Phillips has refused to make numerous cakes that go against his beliefs, including ones about drug-use and ones with sexually explicit material and satanic imagery.
Noting that the "same state agencies decided to go after him a second time" after losing at the Supreme Court, ADF argued, "If that isn’t government hostility towards people of faith, what is?"
"After spending six years on his first legal battle, Jack faces the discouraging reality that his business is once again on the line. All because some state officials disagree with his desire to live out his faith," the law group said.
"Jack had no choice but to file a federal lawsuit to defend himself from this targeting. He should not have to fear government punishment for his faith when he opens his cake shop for business every day. But it appears that Colorado will not stop harassing him until he closes down or agrees to violate his faith."