Colorado baker Jack Phillips was back in court Thursday, seeking to have a state court throw out a lawsuit over a cake he wouldn’t make.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys asked a judge in Denver District Court to dismiss the complaint filed last year by Arvada lawyer Autumn Scardina, who was rebuffed after asking Masterpiece Cakeshop to create a birthday cake celebrating her gender transition from male to female.
“This cake request was clearly a set-up right from the outset,” said ADF Senior Vice President Kristen Waggoner on a press call after oral argument.
In 2012, after the Christian cake designer made headlines for refusing to prepare a cake for a same-sex wedding in a case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, Ms. Scardina sent him “harassing emails attacking his faith, calling him a ‘bigot’ and ‘hypocrite,’” Ms. Waggoner said.
Four years later, Mr. Phillips won his lawsuit against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in a 7-2 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which found that commissioners had demonstrated “clear and impermissible hostility” toward his religious beliefs.
Ms. Scardina contacted Masterpiece again in 2017 and requested a pink-and-blue gender-transition cake. When Mr. Phillips refused, “Scardina called again, this time asking Jack to design a custom cake with Satan smoking marijuana,” Ms. Waggoner said.
Ms. Scardina filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission over the gender-transition cake, but after opening an investigation, the panel dropped the case in 2019, prompting her to sue Mr. Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop in June.
The Scardina lawsuit accuses Mr. Phillips of violating the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and Colorado Consumer Protection Act with his “continued discrimination against the LGBT community.”
The Lakewood bakery “repeatedly represented and advertised to the public and to the courts of law (including the United States Supreme Court) that they would be happy to provide a variety of baked goods, including birthday cakes, to all members of the public, including LGBT individuals,” the complaint said.
Scardina attorney Paula Greisen argued that Masterpiece “was happy to make that cake until later in the conversation when she revealed her status as a member of the LGBT community. At that point, the cakeshop did what it said it wouldn’t do.”
TODAY at 5pm (EST): Join @KWaggonerADF and Jack Phillips on a press briefing for the latest on the THIRD attempt to punish Jack for living according to his faith. https://t.co/LAWIRpxslipic.twitter.com/PPFkswPEMM— AllianceDefends (@AllianceDefends) April 9, 2020
Mr. Phillips said Thursday that he gladly serves all customers, but that “I just can’t celebrate every event or express every message through my cake art.”
The lawsuit, which seeks about $100,000 in damages, fines and attorney’s fees, “could cost me everything,” he said.
“I already lost 40% of my business and more than half of my employees during the first case,” Mr. Phillips said. “I still haven’t regained that income, nor been able to resume creating custom cake art for weddings. During this current coronavirus, I’ve been hit just as badly as many other small business owners.”
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser reached an agreement with Masterpiece in March 2019 to settle the latest legal battle, but Ms. Greisen said that “we had no input into that settlement, and frankly were shocked when it occurred.”
Masterpiece Cakeshop “came up with a backroom deal with the state of Colorado, and now they’re trying to claim she can’t go forward because the state of Colorado doesn’t want to go forward,” Ms. Greisen said.
ADF attorneys, who argued that Ms. Scardina waived her right to sue by declining to appeal the commission’s order, said that a court ruling is expected by the end of the month.
“This attorney’s relentless pursuit of Jack was an obvious attempt to punish him for his views, banish him from the marketplace, and financially ruin him and his shop,” said ADF legal counsel Jake Warner, who argued the case in court. “For these reasons and others, we are asking the court to dismiss this case.”
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