As the LGBTQ community and allies around the country express outrage about a Colorado bakery that turned down a gay couple's request for a wedding cake, New Yorkers are coming together to support the work of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which will represent the two men in a hearing against Masterpiece Cakeshop this fall. The event, dubbed "Have Your Cake & Eat It Too," will celebrate same-sex marriage while raising funds to support the ACLU's work. I spoke with ACLU Colorado lawyer Sara Rich to get more details about the legal action.
Denise Oliveira: In March 2013, when the Colorado Civil Rights Division found that the bakery had violated Colorado law and ordered the parties "to attempt an amicable resolution," Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig were married already. What did the CCRD expect such a mediation to achieve?
Sara Rich: When the Colorado Civil Rights Division contacted us to find out what Charlie and Dave wanted from the conciliation, we told the conciliator that Charlie and Dave wanted Masterpiece Cakeshop to discontinue its discriminatory policy of not providing services to same-sex couples. Of course, Charlie and Dave had already purchased their wedding cake from a nondiscriminatory baker by the time of the conciliation, but the couple is interested in making sure that this business does not discriminate against other unsuspecting same-sex couples who attempt to patronize Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Oliveira: What happened during the mediation?
Rich: There were no meetings held. Charlie and Dave's first and most important demand in order to agree to settle this matter was that Masterpiece Cakeshop stop discriminating. We were informed that the conciliation failed after just a few phone calls with the conciliator, because the cake shop owner would not agree to that term of the settlement.
Oliveira: Then what happened?
Rich: After the conciliation failed, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission decided to set the matter for a hearing before an administrative law judge. The Notice of Hearing and Complaint was filed with the Office of Administrative Courts by the attorney general as counsel in support of the complaint that was originally filed by Charlie and Dave.
Oliveira: What is the role of the ACLU LGBT Project in the case?
Rich: Lawyers from the ACLU of Colorado and the ACLU LGBT Project have been working together on this case since we began representing Charlie and Dave. Lawyers from each organization jointly represent Charlie and Dave.
Oliveira: Do most states have a law like the one in Colorado that forbids discrimination against customers on the basis of sexual orientation?
Rich: There are about 15 states where the anti-discrimination law is the same as the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, in that the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. There are about 30 total states (including the 15 noted above) that have some kind of ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. [For more information, check out this website.]
Oliveira: The bakery owner doesn't deny his discriminatory actions, and presumably he doesn't deny the existence of the law. So what's his argument?
Rich: The only justifications that the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop has been providing are that his refusal to follow the law is "based on [his] religious beliefs" and because "Colorado does not recognize same-sex marriages." Masterpiece Cakeshop is given the opportunity to file a verified answer to the complaint that was filed by the attorney general. If an answer is filed, that could shed additional light on any argument he may have.
Oliveira: When will the hearing before the administrative law judge take place?
Rich: The complaint that was filed on May 31, 2013, set the hearing date for Sept. 23, 2013. It is likely that the specific date may change slightly, but it is likely that the hearing will be held in September.
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Charlie and Dave were married in Provincetown, Mass., on Sept. 16, 2012. Their wedding cake was beautiful.