But a unanimous three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals, in upholding the decision of the state Commission on Human Rights, said that same-sex marriage was so intrinsically related to the plaintiffs’ sexual orientation that a refusal to serve them amounted to illegal discrimination… No reasonable observer, the decision said, “would interpret Masterpiece’s providing a wedding cake for a same-sex couple as an endorsement of same-sex marriage, rather than a reflection of its desire to conduct business in accordance with Colorado’s public accommodations law.”
A state appeals court in Colorado ruled Thursday that a baker could not cite religious beliefs in refusing to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples.
The decision is the latest in a series of similar rulings across the country that have been cheered by civil rights groups but attacked by conservative Christians as assaults on religious liberty.
Whether photographers, florists, bakers and other vendors who are Christians should have a right to refuse services for same-sex marriages has emerged as a major cultural and legal battle, one that has intensified since the Supreme Court decision in June establishing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.
In the Colorado case, “the court squarely said that this is discrimination based on sexual orientation and it’s not to be tolerated, even if it’s motivated by faith,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the gay couple. “Religious liberty gives you the right to your beliefs but not the right to harm others.”
But lawyers for the cake shop said the appeals panel “got it wrong” and that they would probably appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.
“Our client did not engage in sexual-orientation discrimination,” said Jeremy Tedesco, a senior lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group based in Arizona. He argued that an objection to same-sex marriage was not the same as discriminating against a gay person and noted that the baker, Jack Phillips, of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., also refused to make cakes celebrating Halloween because he associates the holiday with Satan.