Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig attempted to buy the cake in July of 2012. They planned to marry in Massachusetts, then hold a reception with friends and family in Colorado.
But Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips refused to serve them, saying his religious beliefs would not permit him to support a same-sex relationship in any way.
“I am a follower of Jesus Christ. So you could say it’s a religious belief,” Phillips said at the time. “I believe the Bible teaches (gay marriage) is not an OK thing.”
Backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Mullins and Craig continued to press the issue, filing complaints with the Colorado Civil Rights Division.
In handing down Friday’s decision, Judge Robert N. Spencer of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts noted that Phillips had previously made cakes for the “marriage” of two dogs, but made a policy of refusing to serve same-sex couples. By definition, that policy constitutes unlawful discrimination, the judge found.
“Being denied service by Masterpiece Cakeshop was offensive and dehumanizing especially in the midst of arranging what should be a joyful family celebration,” Mullins said. “We are grateful to have the support of our community and our state, and we hope that today’s decision will help ensure that no one else will experience this kind of discrimination again in Colorado.”
While details were not yet clear, the ruling will likely require Masterpiece to change its discriminatory policies.
“While we all agree that religious freedom is important, no one’s religious beliefs make it acceptable to break the law by discriminating against prospective customers,” said Amanda C. Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “No one is asking Masterpiece’s owner to change his beliefs, but treating gay people differently because of who they are is discrimination plain and simple.”
Phillips’ attorney, Nicolle Martin, has previously said that they would appeal the decision if they lost.
The legal fight served as a flashpoint for the legislature’s debate of a civil unions bill that passed earlier this year without any exemptions for businesses which oppose recognizing the legal rights of gay and lesbian couples based on its religious beliefs.