Questions over discrimination, First Amendment in spotlight ahead of Supreme Court case

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A Colorado case goes before the nation’s high court Tuesday. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is a question over discrimination and freedom of religious expression. The Supreme Court will hear the case and decide whether a cake shop owner legally refused service to a same-sex couple trying to buy a wedding cake.

David Mullins fears there will be consequences beyond the LGBT community should the high court rule in favor of Jack Phillips.

“We felt hurt and we felt helpless,“ said Charlie Craig, a plaintiff in the case.

He says it is not about cake; it is about civil rights. Craig and his husband David Mullins wanted a customized wedding cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. They were not given a cake, because proprietor Jack Phillips says it is his constitutional right to refuse serving those in violation of his personal beliefs. Craig and Mullins fear for the consequences if a decision goes in Phillips’ favor.

“A loss at the Supreme Court will have wide ranging ramifications that extend far beyond the LGBT community,” said Mullins.

Their case hinges on Colorado law that says businesses selling to the public cannot discriminate based on things like sexual orientation. James Esseks, a member of the ACLU legal team, says when Phillips started his business, he entered a known agreement.

“Follow the long-standing American tradition that when you open your doors to the public, you open your doors to everybody,” said Esseks.

The other side says Tuesday’s oral arguments will show Jack Phillips was exercising his constitutional right to freedom of expression.

“He wants to serve all individuals, his business is indeed open to the public, however there are certain messages that Jack cannot condone,” said Monica Burke, from the Conservative Heritage Foundation.

She says Phillips should not be punished for upholding his beliefs. She says his basic freedoms give him a right to refuse creating what he considers to be art for the couple.

“All Americans have the right to pursue happiness and live in accordance with their beliefs, and that’s what the couple was doing and that’s simply what Jack Phillips seeks to do here in this case,” said Burke.

Oral arguments begin Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.