Durham County

Chapel Hill supports group joining brief in Colorado LGBT wedding cake case


Mayor Pam Hemminger and the Chapel Hill Town Council have joined more than 150 mayors from across the country in support of an amicus brief filed by Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

The case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. It considers the constitutionality of enforcing anti-discrimination laws when business owners have asserted a religious justification for refusing to provide services to LGBTQ people in violation of those laws.

“Our support upholds the basic values of our community – that Chapel Hill is a Place for Everyone – and that our citizens are not discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or for any other reason,” Hemminger stated in a press release. “The outcome of this case will have a significant impact on every city and county across our country.”

The case arises from a finding of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which was affirmed by the Colorado Court of Appeals, that a bakery in Colorado violated the state’s non-discrimination law when it refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. The bakery contended that it should be exempt from enforcement of the law based on religion or free speech grounds, based on its owners’ asserted religious opposition to same-sex marriage.

In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins visited Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery in Lakewood, Colorado, and requested that owner Jack D. Phillips design and create a cake to celebrate their same-sex wedding. Phillips declined, telling them that he does not create wedding cakes for same-sex weddings because of his religious beliefs, but advising Craig and Mullins that he would be happy to make and sell them other bakery goods.

The Chapel Hill brief supports the decision made by the Colorado Civil Rights commission, saying that public interest is better served when discrimination against protected classes is prevented. There is longstanding legal precedent that businesses cannot discriminate in public services or accommodations on the basis of protected class status regardless of any religious beliefs of the owners. The plaintiff in this case seeks to upend this precedent.

The Supreme Court justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on Dec. 5.