By Andres Del Aguila
WASHINGTON – Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, said the Supreme Court will set a dangerous precedent if it rules in favor of a man who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.
“Once you allow that crack in that wall of justice, it will continue to widen and weaken and through it will flow all sorts of discriminatory conduct because what type of discrimination couldn’t be justified on the basis of religious expression,” he said during a Wednesday news conference announcing the caucus’ amicus brief to the Supreme Court regarding Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to bake a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins in 2012, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission determined two years later.
Phillips appealed the decision, arguing that baking the cake for the two men’s wedding reception would violate his First Amendment rights, considering his deeply held Christian belief that marriage is a religious ceremony between one man and one woman.
The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief to the Court in support of Phillips on Sept. 7, arguing that he is “enabling the ritual” by baking the cake.
“Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights,” Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall said.
But Maloney denounced the First Amendment argument, saying Phillips is “claiming victimhood.”
“It is not an answer to say that it is expressive conduct, that it is speech,” he said. “It is not an answer to say it is a sincerely held religious belief if you are engaged in commercial activity.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other House Democrats joined Maloney to announce the brief, which is signed by 35 Senators and 174 House members.
Pelosi said the case is about the “fundamental right” to be free from discrimination.
“With this brief, we are fighting to ensure that our nation lives up to its ideals of quality and justice for all,” she said.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said in a statement released Wednesday: “It is simply wrong to discriminate against any American based on who they are or who they love. If an individual has the ability to pay for a service and is not in violation of the law, they should not be turned away.”
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the case starting on Dec. 5.