BY CHRIS JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE
The U.S. Supreme Court has set Dec. 5 as the day for oral arguments on whether a Colorado baker has a First Amendment right to refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples over religious objections.
The high court announced Friday the case, known as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, will be the first of two arguments on that day.
Consideration of the case will mark the return of the U.S. Supreme Court to the issue of LGBT rights in the first major way since its milestone 2015 decision in favor of marriage equality nationwide.
The case has been percolating in state and federal court for years. It came about after Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a Colorado same-sex couple, in 2012 foe their wedding in Massachusetts. Phillips refused the wedding cake based on his religious beliefs, but said he would be happy to make and sell the couple other baked goods.
In 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado filed a lawsuit on behalf of the couple, alleging the bakery discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation under Colorado state law.
An administrative judge ruled in favor of the same-sex couple — a decision the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld in 2015. Although the Colorado Supreme Court had declined to review these decisions and let them stand, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari, or agreed to take up the case, in June.
The U.S. Justice Department has already weighed in on the case, siding with the Colorado baker in a friend-of-the-court brief on the basis that baking a wedding cake is inherently an act of expression and therefore refusing to same-sex couples is a protected right under the First Amendment.