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Christian baker couldn’t make a trans woman’s birthday cake because ‘cake is an expression of his soul’, court hears

Lily Wakefield March 23, 2021
Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop

Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty)

Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Colorado bakery that won a narrow Supreme Court victory over its refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex couple, is back in court this week after saying they would not make a cake with trans flag frosting for a woman named Autumn Scardina.

On Monday (22 March), a four-day trial began to decide whether the cake shop had violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to make the trans woman’s birthday cake.

In 2017, Christian baker Jack Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop, refused to bake a birthday cake with trans flag frosting for Autumn Scardina, to celebrate her transition.

Autumn Scardina filed a discrimination complaint against him through the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, but in response Phillips sued the state insisting that he was being discriminated against on the basis of his religious beliefs.

Both of these cases were eventually dropped, but Scardina filed her own lawsuit against Phillipps in June 2019. Earlier this month a judge said she “need not establish that her transgender status was the ‘sole’ cause of the denial of services… Rather, she need only show that the discriminatory action was based, in whole or in part, on her protected status”.

Jack Phillips insists he refused to bake the cake because of its “message”, not because Autumn Scardina is trans.

According to the Courthouse News Service, on the first day of the remote trial at a Denver court, John McHugh, representing Autumn Scardina, said: “They say she asked for a sex-change cake. She says she asked for a birthday cake. That doesn’t matter.

“What matters is they refused to make her a cake based on her identity.”

But Phillips’ attorney Sean Gates declared in his opening statement that his client would only bake cakes with “messages” that he agrees with, because cakes are “an expression of his soul”.

Gates said: “Why not just bake the cake? That’s a question Jack Phillips gets asked a lot. Avoid years of litigation, avoid the death threats. Just make the cake.

“But Jack Phillips sees himself as an artist, and the cake as an expression of his soul. Jack Phillips’ cakes convey a message.”

He continued while showing a slideshow of various Masterpiece Cakeshop creations: “Jack Phillips is a Christian and his religion affects what he can create.

“Jack Phillips will make cakes for all people, but he cannot make cakes for all messages… Masterpiece Cakeshop has regular customers who are gay, Masterpiece Cakeshop has regular customers who are transgender.

“The issue has to do with the message. The evidence will show that if Jack Phillips bakes that cake that it would mean he agrees a gender transition is something to celebrate.

“This lawsuit isn’t about discrimination, it’s about the freedom to disagree.”

Phillips is also being supported by Alliance Defending Freedom, which is designated an anti-LGBT+ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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