Roundup: Colorado reacts to Supreme Court's ruling in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner

Posted at 11:42 AM, Jun 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-05 01:01:27-04

DENVER – The U.S. Supreme Court’s Monday 7-2 ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case sent ripples across Colorado, as some who supported the Lakewood baker at the center of the case voiced their exuberance at the court’s decision and those who supported the same-sex couple said it was a “narrow” decision that was still a win for the LGBTQ community.

The court’s majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated baker Jack Phillips’ rights when it said he couldn’t refuse to bake cakes for same-sex couples. The majority held that Phillips’ First Amendment rights were violated because of the commission’s “clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection” – something the majority said casted doubt on the commission’s impartiality.

But the court did not rule on the overarching issue of whether or not businesses can refuse to serve same-sex couples.

Below, you can find reaction from the people and groups involved in the case, as well as from many politicians and groups in Colorado who have closely watched the case over the past several years:

Alliance Defending Freedom (Led Jack Phillips’ legal efforts)

“Jack serves all customers; he simply declines to express messages or celebrate events that violate his deeply held beliefs. Creative professionals who serve all people should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment. Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society, yet the state of Colorado was openly antagonistic toward Jack’s religious beliefs about marriage. The court was right to condemn that. Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a society like ours. This decision makes clear that the government must respect Jack’s beliefs about marriage.”

Colorado Civil Rights Division

"The Colorado Civil Rights Division respects the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States. 

The decision does not alter the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act or its protections.

The court has sent a message regarding members of decision making bodies, such as the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, requiring that its deliberations remain objective and consistent so that both parties are guaranteed those considerations and are applied in a consistent manner.

The Colorado Civil Rights Division is the administrative division under the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies that receives and investigates charges of discrimination.

Along with this guidance issued by the United States Supreme Court, the Colorado Civil Rights Division will continue reviewing charges of discrimination as it pertains to the Colorado Anti Discrimination Act.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, an appointed administrative body that reviews cases from the Colorado Civil Rights Division to determine further action based on the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, also will continue with their function."

Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig

“Obviously we are disappointed with this ruling but we want to thank the state of Colorado,” they said in a conference call. “It makes us feel the state we call home has had our backs.”

“Obviously we’re disappointed with this ruling. We were hoping it would go a different way but you know, we live in a country where we believe turning people away from businesses just because of who they are is wrong,” Mullins said in an interview Monday with Denver7.

But he said he doesn’t feel the court’s ruling, which mostly addressed the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, will have a binding effect on LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws across the country.

“I don’t think this is a lost cause in anyway,” he said. “I think the issue of public accommodation and discrimination against LGBT people will continue.”

Craig said he was “shocked” by the ruling but said he wouldn’t change anything about the way they handled the case.

“If we had to do this over again, we would do it the exact same way,” Craig said.

ACLU (Helped in legal representation for Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig)

“The court reversed the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on concerns unique to the case but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people.” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling.

Rep. Jared Polis (Colorado Democratic member of Congress; gubernatorial candidate)

"This is a disheartening ruling for the LGBTQ community and a sad reminder that we have a long way to go in building a nation where everyone is free from discrimination, regardless of who they are or who they love."

“Here in Colorado, equality is a fundamental value. We take great pride in having some of the strongest, most forward-thinking non-discrimination laws in the country. To be clear, nothing in this ruling gives opponents of equality justification to try to undo those laws or dismantle the vital Colorado Civil Rights Commission. As Coloradans, we will stand strong against any attacks on our fundamental rights.” 

Colorado House Democrats

“While I’m disappointed that we didn’t see a clear decision in support of civil rights today, it’s important to recognize that this is a narrow holding, and our statewide protections against discrimination are still the law of the land,” said Speaker Duran, D-Denver, who sponsored the reauthorization of the Colorado Civil Rights Division. “Colorado has a long history of defending civil rights, and now more than ever we must stand firm and continue providing protections against discrimination.” 

“This decision does not give license to business owners to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community,” said Rep. Herod, D-Denver, who also sponsored the CCRD reauthorization. “Our Colorado laws protecting members of the LGBTQ community against discrimination are still in effect, the court merely ruled that the Commission should have handled this particular case differently. This is a very narrow decision and we must recommit ourselves to fighting injustices everywhere.”

“The fight continues,” said Rep. Daneya Esgar, co-chair of the legislative LGBT caucus. “We can all agree discrimination is wrong and we must continue working to ensure protections against prejudice for all Coloradans. No one should be refused service just because of who they are or whom they love.” 

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City)

“This ruling stands as a clear and humbling rebuke to all those, inside and outside the Statehouse, who took the position this last session that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission can do no wrong, and that it always acts within appropriate legal and constitutional boundaries. It clearly does not. Not only does this ruling demonstrate why Senate Republicans made the effort we did to reform the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, but I think this opens the door to follow-up reforms now that we all have a better understanding of where cases of overreach and abuse can occur. 

We hate to say we told you so...but we told you so. We pushed for modest but necessary reforms and restraints, which were designed to rein-in the potential for such abuses, but Democrats refused to budge on much of what we proposed, and even now seek to diminish the significance of this ruling. This shows precisely why the Civil Rights Commission needed to be depoliticized, de-radicalized and returned to its original mission -- to protect the civil liberties of all Coloradans, not just a select few.

The refusal of many Democrats and special interests to see the need for any but the most innocuous reforms offers troubling proof that they care more about politicizing the commission than seeing it follow constitutional principle. We hope they will do some serious soul-searching in the wake of this ruling. But I will not hold my breath.”

Colorado state Sen. Bob Gardner (Republican who worked on Civil Rights Commission measure this session)

"Today, the United States Supreme Court found that our State's Civil Rights Commission acted with hostility toward a citizen's free exercise of religion. In fact, the Court noted the unchallenged hostility toward religion by this group appointed by our Governor. The Court found that the very body charged with protecting the rights of our citizens acted with hostility toward those rights in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. 

During the legislative session, I struggled to restore balance to the Civil Rights Commission and ensure that it would not be captured by a viewpoint that favors one set of protected rights over another. This is the very reason I worked last session to restore balance and accountability to the Civil Rights Commission. While some believed the legislation achieved that, I did not and voted against the reauthorization of an unaccountable commission.

The Court's ruling today confirms that my concerns were legitimate and the need for balance on the Commission absolutely essential for our citizens. The Governor we elect this year will make at least three appointments to the Commission early next year. That is why it is critical that we elect a Governor committed to protecting all of our civil rights, including the right to religious freedom."

One Colorado (LGBTQ advocacy group)

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court does not change our country’s long-standing principle that businesses open to the public must be open to all. While we are disappointed the Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop and their discrimination against Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, the fact remains that Colorado has a civil rights division and anti-discrimination laws that equally protect the fundamental rights of all Coloradans.”

“We strongly believe that the freedom of religion must be defended as one of our most fundamental values as Americans, but that freedom cannot be used to harm others or discriminate against others. Coloradans across our state – including LGBTQ Coloradans and their families – can take heart from today’s decision that no matter who you are, who you love, or what you believe, you will still be protected in our state from discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R-Colo.)

“Today the Supreme Court determined that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’s sincerely held religious beliefs in this particular case. Based on the statements of some Commissioners, the Court found that the proceedings did not honor the State’s solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws.

At the same time, the opinion is narrow. The Court made its decision based on a specific set of facts and left open many legal questions. Unfortunately, those questions will have to be decided in future litigation.

The Court did make clear, however, that States like Colorado may continue to protect the LGBTQ community, reaffirming principles my office has consistently defended for the past six years. The general rule was, and remains, that the First Amendment does not allow business owners to deny members of the community equal access to goods and services. As the Court said, the right of gay people and couples to “exercise ... their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect.” The Court’s decision did nothing to undermine protections the Colorado General Assembly granted to the LGBTQ community under our Anti-Discrimination Act.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.)

“It’s against Colorado law to deny goods and services to any individual because of sexual orientation. Nothing in the narrow opinion released today by the United States Supreme Court changes that, or prevents the state from protecting LGBTQ persons from discrimination.

“While we are disappointed with the decision, we take seriously the Court’s admonition that the state must apply its laws and regulations in a manner that is neutral toward religion. We have no doubt that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission will meet that standard as they listen, respectfully, to all sides of the matters that come before it and issue decisions that uphold the protections afforded under Colorado law.”

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.)

“The Masterpiece case was an opportunity for the Supreme Court to set an important anti-discrimination precedent. Unfortunately today’s ruling, though narrowly written, reminds us we can never stop fighting against discrimination in this country and underscores the need for nationwide nondiscrimination protections. I signed the amicus brief in support of Charlie and David because I believe every American is guaranteed freedom from discrimination regardless of their race, color, sexual orientation or gender.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.)

"The government should not compel Americans to use their artistic talents to support messages that are contrary to their beliefs. In Jack Phillips case handed today down today [sic] by SCOTUS, religious liberty has won, marking a step in the right direction for all American liberties."

Colorado Senate Minority Leader Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo)

"I am very concerned by this decision and the message it sends to LGBTQ Coloradans and their families.

It is important to note that this ruling does not enshrine a 'license to discriminate' as precedent. Our civil rights laws have not been overturned, and we will continue to tirelessly fight for the rights of all Coloradans.

I appreciate how our country upholds freedom of religion as a fundamental, inalienable right. But I also believe that no religion gives anyone the right to harm and discriminate against their fellow man."

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.)

“The Supreme Court’s decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is a setback, but its ruling is a narrow one, pertaining to one particular set of circumstances, and won’t end our efforts to ensure equal protections for all LGBTQ people,” DeGette said. “This Pride Month, and every day, we must keep fighting to ensure public places in our society are open to all – for my constituents Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the couple at the heart of this case who endured abhorrent discrimination, and for every member of this community. One way we can achieve this aim is by passing the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Together, we can work to guarantee that no one is denied rights, services or accommodations simply because of who they are and who they love.”

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll

"This is a moral loss for the country and a sad day for Americans who believe that bigotry and discrimination should have no place in our society. We are profoundly disappointed that the Supreme Court would use procedural concerns with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to give legal sanction to discrimination. We believe that the court is missing the forest for the trees."

"While we are disappointed by the court's ruling, we are heartened by the fact that the court upheld Colorado's landmark laws preventing discrimination, and upheld the longstanding principle that businesses open to the public must be open to all."

"This narrow ruling should not be misconstrued by enemies of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission as a license to dismantle the CCRC or attack Colorado's landmark anti-discrimination laws. Unfortunately, we already see Republicans gearing up for another attack on the CCRC. If anything, today's ruling is yet another reminder that we have more work to do to ensure that no Coloradan or American is subject to discrimination because of who they are or who they love."

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose Justice Department filed an amicus brief last year on the side of Masterpiece.

"The First Amendment prohibits governments from discriminating against citizens on the basis of religious beliefs. The Supreme Court rightly concluded that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to show tolerance and respect for Mr. Phillips' religious beliefs."

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock)

"While Republicans firmly supported the lawful aims of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, we pointed out the inherent conflicts of having a quasi-judicial body serve as prosecutor, judge and jury, accountable to only one elected official. Today the Supreme Court provided us some vindication, saying the Commission’s anti-religious bias was both evident and wrong. As Republicans we advocate for the civil rights of all Coloradans, especially when an arm of the government is an obstacle to them."

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

“Today’s ruling does nothing to change Colorado’s strong anti-discrimination law. At the same time, the Court’s attempt to balance this commitment with sincerely-held religious beliefs reminds us of our broader obligation to practice tolerance and fight discrimination.”

This story will be updated as more reaction comes in.