The U.S. Supreme Court is currently deliberating on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a landmark case that could determine whether businesses and individuals are allowed to discriminate against LGBT Americans based on religious views.
David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in July 2012, hoping to order a cake for their upcoming wedding. But owner Jack Phillips told them he couldn’t sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple because it violated his belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.
They filed suit with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, contending Phillips was violating the state’s anti-discrimination law, and the commission agreed. (Colorado is one of just 21 states bars discrimination against sexual orientation.) Phillips doesn’t deny he broke Colorado’s civil rights code, he insists the code is unconstitutional. His appeal is being bankrolled by The Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing Christian legal group.
It will likely be months before the high court issues its ruling in the Masterpiece case, but Republicans in Colorado are doing their best to retaliate now: They voted to defund the commission, a move the DNC’s Lucas Acosta called “shameful.”
“Every American deserves a government that fights for their basic human rights, and Colorado Republicans’ actions today send a clear message that they’re interested in creating a government that does just the opposite,” he added. “Fighting for civil rights shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but it’s become more and more clear that Republicans, in Colorado and Washington, are more interested in taking us backwards than fighting to improve the lives of every American.”
While the gay rights case is the commission’s most prominent ruling, it regularly weighs in on discrimination affecting race, gender and other criteria—including a man who was denied an apartment because he had a stutter and suffered from hand tremors.
On Tuesday hundreds gathered outside the state capitol building in Denver to protest the vote.
“When there are attacks on our rights the people will show and the people will be heard,” House Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) told demonstrators.
Republicans insist they don’t want to end the commission, they just think it’s too powerful and progressive—and they don’t like that members are only appointed by the governor. “We are committed to the reauthorization of the Civil Rights Commission,” said State Sen. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs). “I believe the make up of the commission is not balanced right now.”
Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper insists the commission “is working pretty well the way it is.”