A Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple on religious grounds is once again back in court, this time for turning away a transgender woman.
Jack Phillips made national headlines after winning a partial victory in the US Supreme Court in 2018, following a years-long legal battle over his decision to refuse service to the gay couple, who’d wanted a cake for their wedding reception. But now the baker has found himself at the center of another lawsuit, this one brought by Autumn Scardina, a transgender woman.
Scardina tried to order a birthday cake from Phillips in 2017, requesting that it be blue on the outside and pink on the inside to commemorate her gender transition. The order was made on the same day that the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Phillips’ appeal in the gay wedding cake case. She claimed during a virtual court hearing on Monday that she wanted to see if Phillips was being sincere when he argued that he opposed making the gay couple’s cake because it involved a religious ceremony, but that he was open to selling any other type of product.
She insisted that the order was not a “setup,” describing it more as “calling someone’s bluff.”
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Phillips’ lawyer, Sean Gates, told the Denver court that his client’s refusal to bake the cake for Scardina was because he didn’t approve of its message and that he wasn’t discriminating against the transgender woman. He noted that Phillips has been subject to years of media attention over the gay wedding cake case and that his client could not in good conscience create a cake that relayed a message that he took issue with.
“The message would be that he agrees that a gender transition is something to be celebrated,” Gates said, noting that Phillips objected to making products with other messages that he didn’t approve of, including Halloween-themed cakes.
Scardina sought legal action against Phillips after filing a complaint with the state and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In March 2019, the complaint was dropped, as was a counter-suit filed by Phillips, as part of a settlement. But under the agreement, Scardina was allowed to pursue legal action on her own.
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Although his views remain highly controversial, Phillips has seen some success in the courts. In the gay wedding cake case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was guilty of anti-religious bias when it sanctioned the baker for refusing to make the cake for the gay wedding ceremony. However, the court did not weigh in on whether businesses can cite religious objections for refusing service to members of LGBT people.
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