Gay Marriage

Colorado Orders Baker to Make Gay Wedding Cakes; Also Ordered to File Reports and Reveal Customer Names


Nobody should have a right to this cake.
Credit: Atelier Teee / photo on flickr

A baker in Colorado who became a center of controversy over his refusal (on religious grounds) to bake a cake for a gay couple's wedding has been told he may not engage in such discrimination. This decision from the state's civil rights panel today affirms a ruling from a judge, so it's not actually a new thing. However, what is new is the rather insulting and problematic additional demands from the panel. From The Denver Post:

In its decision, the panel required [baker Jack] Phillips to submit quarterly reports for two years that show how he has worked to change discriminatory practices by altering company policies and training employees. Phillips also must disclose the names of any clients who are turned away.

By what legal authority does the panel make these demands of Phillips? I'm not even speaking philosophically. I disagree with Colorado's public accommodation discrimination laws, but at least they are actual laws. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission is made up of unelected appointees from the governor. I looked through the commission's list of rules (pdf), and while the 56-page document is full of all sorts of guidelines on how discrimination hearings should take place and pages upon pages of rules regarding employment discrimination, it doesn't actually have a lot to say about what sort of remedies the commission is able to enforce, other than giving plaintiffs clearance to sue. But I am not a lawyer and could have missed all sorts of stuff in my skimming. (Also of note: It is against the law in Colorado to put up a sign in a business that says anything similar to "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone"). By what right does Colorado claim to be able to demand the names of Phillips' non-clients? Doesn't that violate the privacy of a third party completely unconnected to this case?

Also of note: The Civil Rights Division offers the kind of training they're trying to force Phillips to provide (even though employee training had nothing to do with this case), so that's a nice bit of potential make-work for themselves.

We've written extensively about the how these public accommodation laws violate the freedom of association rights of businesses and the religious freedoms of their owners. Jacob Sullum wrote most recently in our June issue about how such laws (and laws mandating businesses pay for birth control for their employees) are essentially a form of conscripted private service.