Ahead of a high-profile Supreme Court case focused on the battle between religious liberty and LGBT rights, the Trump administration announced on Thursday that it has sided with a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.
The Justice Department filed an amicus brief on Thursday on behalf of Jack Phillips, who was found guilty of violating the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act in 2012 for insisting his religious beliefs prevented him from being able to bake a cake for same-sex couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins.
The Trump administration argued that Colorado violated Phillips’ First Amendment free expression rights by citing him for discrimination, saying that his cakes are a form of expression so he can’t be forced to use those talents for something that goes against his beliefs.
“When Phillips designs and creates a custom wedding cake, there is no clear line between his speech and his clients’,” lawyers wrote in the brief. “He is not merely tolerating someone else’s message on his property; he is giving effect to their message by crafting a unique product with his own two hands.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said the Trump administration made the decision in an attempt to vindicate free speech rights and protect “the right of free expression for all Americans.”
“Although public-accommodations laws serve important purposes, they—like other laws—must yield to the individual freedoms that the First Amendment guarantees,” Ehrsam said in a statement. “That includes the freedom not to create expression for ceremonies that violate one’s religious beliefs.”
Although this decision is the latest in a long string of moves that the Trump administration has made to rescind Obama’s policies that were favorable to gay rights, Louise Melling, the ACLU lawyer representing the gay couple, said she was still surprised by the news.
Melling told The Washington Post that “even in an administration that has already made its hostility [toward the gay community clear], I find this nothing short of shocking.”