DENVER - Upholding a state civil rights commission order, the Colorado Court of Appeals agreed that a Colorado bakery discriminated against a gay couple when refusing to make them a wedding cake.
The three-judge panel unanimously decided that Masterpiece Cake Shop's policy against creating wedding cakes for same-sex couples is a "discriminatory and unfair practice," as determined by the commission.
This latest decision in the struggle over the role of religion in private business that are open to the public is likely to be appealed.
Both sides of the case are receiving legal help from interest groups. The cake shop is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom and the couple is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Charlie Craig and David Mullins were turned away when attempting to order a wedding cake from the company, owned by Jack Phillips.
This was in July 2012, nearly two years before same-sex marriage became legal in Colorado.
Phillips argued that baking a wedding cake for a same-sex couple amounts to being forced to speak (in the form of artistic expression) in favor of same-sex marriage, which is counter to his religious beliefs.
"By selling a wedding cake to a same-sex couple," the court ruled, "Masterpiece does not necessarily lead an observer to conclude that the bakery supports its customer's conduct."
The court opinion stated that it might have to take a deeper look at Phillips' First Amendment arguments if the cake had been ordered with a specific message advocating support of same-sex marriage.
The cake shop's lawyers argued that the cake itself does that. The court disagreed.
"We need not reach this issue," the opinion stated. "We note, again, that Phillips denied Craig's and Mullins' request without any discussion regarding the wedding cake's design or any possible written inscriptions."
(© 2015 KUSA)