Cake wars: Bakeries serve up tension between LGBT rights, religious objections

Jack Phillips of Masterpeice Cakeshop in Denver.

Jack Phillips of Masterpeice Cakeshop in Denver. AP

Jack Phillips of Masterpeice Cakeshop in Denver.AP

Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver.

DENVER — A pair of Colorado cases – locally dubbed the “Cake Wars” – have added a new twist to the fight over LGBT discrimination and religious objections playing out across the U.S.

In one dispute, a gay couple who wanted a wedding cake filed a complaint against a baker who turned them away, citing his Christian faith. The other has developed along opposite lines, with a customer requesting a cake with an anti-gay biblical message saying he’s been discriminated against by shops that refused him.

Here’s a look at where things stand:

THE WEDDING CAKE

Charlie Craig and David Mullins scored a victory in December 2013 in their complaint against Jack Phillips, owner of suburban Denver’s Masterpiece Cakeshop.

Ruling in their favor, an administrative law judge wrote that “it may seem reasonable that a private business should be able to refuse service to anyone it chooses,” but that wouldn’t “take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are.”

Phillips faces fines, and the case is pending in state appeals court.

THE RELIGIOUS OBJECTION CAKE

Bill Jack went to three bakeries last summer asking for cakes shaped like the Bible with anti-gay religious messages, including “homosexuality is a detestable sin.” He was refused and says the shops – Azucar Bakery, Le Bakery Sensual and Gateaux – discriminated against him because he’s Christian.

State investigators, however, said he wasn’t denied because of his faith, but because the Denver businesses considered his messages as hateful and offensive.

Jack’s discrimination complaint was denied last month by Colorado’s Civil Rights Division, but he plans to appeal.

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THE REACTIONS

Jack released a statement saying the reaction highlights unequal treatment. “It is offensive that the state of Colorado prosecuted Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop for bringing his Christian faith to bear in his decision not to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, yet business owners who decide to refuse service to a Christian wanting Bible verses on cakes are exonerated by the state,” he said.

A state lawmaker, Republican Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, who sponsored a failed religious objections bill, said all of the bakers should be protected by the First Amendment. He said the decision against Jack showed bias. “I’m very disappointed in the hypocrisy that the Colorado government only punishes Christian bakers.”

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