A Colorado baker who was punished by the state for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage celebration will get to argue his case before the United States Supreme Court.
The high court decided on Monday to grant an appeal in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, setting the stage for a major legal struggle on the question of religious liberty and LGBT rights.
In 2012, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc. refused to make a same-sex wedding cake due to it violating his sincerely held religious beliefs.
In 2014, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission found him guilty of discrimination, claiming that he violated Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act, or CADA.
The Commission ordered Phillips to undergo sensitivity training and provide the Commission with updates on any cake orders he refused to take, providing an explanation for this reasoning.
In August of 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals sided with the Civil Rights Commission, prompting Phillips to file a petition for appeal with the state supreme court last October.
"It was the duty of the Court of Appeals to adopt a reasonable interpretation of CADA that 'avoid[s] constitutional conflict.' But it did the opposite," stated the petition.
"By equating an artist's conscience-driven, message-based objection to creating expressive items that offend his beliefs with person-based discrimination based on sexual orientation, the court places CADA in direct conflict with the fundamental rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, and wrongly subordinates these rights to public accommodations law."
In April of 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear Phillips' appeal, prompting an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in July 2016.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which filed an amicus brief before the Colorado Court of Appeals against Masterpiece, said in a statement on Monday that they hope the case will be used to clarify that religion cannot be used to discriminate.
"The owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop can't treat some people like second-class citizens because of his religion," stated Americans United Executive Director the Rev. Barry Lynn.
"With the eyes of the nation and history watching, the Supreme Court now has the opportunity to join lower courts in affirming that religious freedom does not grant a business owner license to harm others."
Travis Weber, attorney and director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, said in a statement Monday that he was hopeful the high court will side with the baker.
"The Court should take this opportunity to settle the question of whether states can coerce people of faith into wedding-related practices with which they disagree," stated Weber.
"The answer to that question should be an obvious 'no' and we hope the Court makes this clear by strongly affirming that all Americans' First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights are protected against such state coercion."