The Supreme Court is preparing to hear one of the most important civil right cases of our time involving a Colorado baker who refused a wedding cake to a same-sex couple, and the Trump administration has come down squarely on the side of the baker. The case itself dates back to 2012, when the couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, attempted to buy a cake for their wedding from the Masterpiece Cakeshop in the suburbs of Denver, and shop owner Jack Phillips refused while citing religious objections.
Phillips initially lost a complaint filed by the couple with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission on grounds that he violated the state’s public accommodations law, which prohibits businesses from refusing service to people based on factors like race and sexual identity. Yet he’s not willing to drop it. As the case now makes its way to the Supreme Court, Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall has filed a brief for the Justice Department while claiming, “Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights.” Here’s more:
“The government may not enact content-based laws commanding a speaker to engage in protected expression: An artist cannot be forced to paint, a musician cannot be forced to play, and a poet cannot be forced to write,” the brief adds.
The brief is particularly unusual, as CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law Steve Vladeck notes that “It’s practically unheard of for the Justice Department to argue in favor of a constitutional exemption to antidiscrimination laws — a constitutional right to discriminate. But that’s exactly what this brief is doing.”