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Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Case Seeking Religious Exemptions from LGBTQ Non-Discrimination Laws

Key Date: June 4, 2018
Status: Resolved after SCOTUS ruling that CO mishandled the case
Legal Team: American Civil Liberties Union
Type: Public Accommodations Discrimination

Masterpiece Cakeshop Case Overview:

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission concerned a business owner in Colorado who denied service to a same-sex couple because of their sexual orientation and sought a religious exemption to a longstanding non-discrimination law in Colorado prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bakery was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that works aggressively to restrict and roll back non-discrimination protections and basic equality for LGBT Americans. The same-sex couple was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. Read their case page – including case documents – here.

Latest in the Case:

On June 4, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled narrowly in favor of the bakery. The Court’s decision is limited specifically to this one case and calls into question actions from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission – but it leaves intact Colorado’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections, as well as similar protections in 18 states and 200+ cities and towns.

Read the full decision here.

Case History:

Every lower court that has heard the case has affirmed that the bakery is in no way entitled to a religious exemption from the Colorado Public Accommodations Law – and that businesses open to the public must be open to all. Here’s an overview of key dates and rulings in Masterpiece Cakeshop:

  • December 6, 2013: Administrative Judge Robert Spencer of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts rules that Masterpiece Cakeshop discriminated against the same-sex couple because of their sexual orientation, violating Colorado’s longstanding non-discrimination law.
  • June 2, 2014: The Colorado Civil Rights Commission issues final ruling that Masterpiece Cakeshop discriminated against the same-sex couple and violated the state’s non-discrimination law.
  • August 13, 2015: The Colorado Court of Appeals affirms the decision, finding that the bakery violated Colorado’s non-discrimination law.
  • April 25, 2016: The Colorado Supreme Court denies review of the Masterpiece case, leaving standing the ruling from the Colorado Court of Appeals.
  • June 26, 2017: The U.S. Supreme Court grants review of the Masterpiece case, which will be heard winter 2017.
  • December 5, 2017: U.S. Supreme Court hears oral argument in the Masterpiece case. A decision is expected in Spring 2018.
  • June 4, 2018: The Supreme Court issues a limited scope ruling in favor of the bakery in a 7-2 decision.

Last Updated June 15, 2018

ACLU Case Page FFAA Blog Post on SCOTUS Decision Equality Case Files Case History

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