Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake inside his store, in Lakewood, Colo. on March 10, 2014.
Brennan Linsley/AP

Colorado commission affirms cake discrimination ruling

Updated

All they wanted was a cake. 

Two years ago, Charlie Craig and David Mullins walked into the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado with Craig’s mother, Deborah Munn, and a folder of wedding cake ideas for the couple’s wedding reception. 

Less than five minutes later, before Craig could even open his folder,  Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips asked the couple whether the cake was for them. When they said yes, Phillips told them that he didn’t make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, because of his religious belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

“I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings,” Phillips said, according to court documents

“It was a devastating moment, neither Charlie nor I had ever been turned away from a place because we were gay,” Mullins told msnbc. “The fact that Charlie’s mother was there with us was mortifying.”

The three of them got up and walked out. “On our way out the door I said, ‘f— you and your homophobic cakeshop,’” Mullins added.

Once they got home, Mullins wrote a Facebook post that ended up going viral and drew the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union. A complaint was filed, and a court ruled in 2013 that the owner of the cake shop was on the wrong side of the law.

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Colorado (Craig and Mullins were married in Massachusetts) but the state bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in businesses that serve the public.

On Friday, the state civil rights commission affirmed last year’s ruling concluding that Phillips broke the law when he told Craig and Mullins he wouldn’t bake their wedding cake. Under the terms of the decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop will be temporarily supervised to ensure that the business does not discriminate against same-sex couples in the future.

The Colorado couple’s case, along with a similar ruling in New Mexico involving a wedding photographer, helped set off the rush of “religious freedom” bills proposed by conservative state lawmakers that would make it easier for business owners to refuse services to same-sex couples. Colorado and New Mexico, unlike many states,  both explicitly bar denying services to people because of their sexual orientation.

Religious conservatives and their allies have argued that it would violate the religious beliefs of business owners if they had to provide services for same-sex weddings. 

Craig and Mullins weren’t the only couple to claim that they were discriminated against by Phillips. When Stephanie and Jeanine Schmalz sought to order cupcakes from Masterpiece to celebrate their commitment ceremony, they were turned away. After hearing about Craig and Mullins, Stephanie Schmalz says she called to order a doggie biscuit-shaped cake from Phillips for a “dog wedding” involving “Roscoe and Buffy.”

Phillips agreed to bake the doggie wedding cake, according to Schmalz.

“It’s not about the cake really, it’s about being denied services. Would we really want a cake baked from Masterpiece at this point? No,” said Craig. “But do we want to shed light on the subject and help so other people don’t have to go through the same situation? The answer to that is yes.”

As for the ‘religious freedom’ bills that swept the country early in the year, Mullins said that he has faith that gay and lesbian rights supporters will ultimately prevail. 

“It’s disappointing to see these laws happening,” Mullins said. “At the same time we feel like they’re a last burst of energy from the other side.”

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Colorado commission affirms cake discrimination ruling

Updated