Colorado, Baker Agree to Ceasefire in War Over Cake

DENVER (CN) – A Colorado baker agreed to dismiss his federal lawsuit against the state Tuesday as long as the Colorado Civil Rights Commission drops its charges over the baker’s 2018 refusal to bake a cake for a gender transition celebration.

Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake inside his store in Lakewood, Colo., on March 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

“After careful consideration of the facts, both sides agreed it was not in anyone’s best interest to move forward with these cases,” said attorney general Phil Weiser in a statement. “The larger constitutional issues might well be decided down the road, but these cases will not be the vehicle for resolving them.”

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission first sued Phillips in 2014 after he refused to make a gay couple’s wedding cake.

In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the commission’s finding – which had been upheld by an administrative law judge and the Colorado Court of Appeals – albeit narrowly: The justices found the commission hadn’t treated Phillips with “neutral and respectful consideration,” and had made “official expressions of hostility to religion” while handling Phillips’ case.

In June 2017, on the same day the Supreme Court agreed to hear his case, Phillips received a call requesting a pink cake with blue frosting to commemorate a person’s transition from one gender to another. He refused. The customer, Denver-based attorney Autumn Scardina, filed a discrimination complaint with the state Civil Rights Commission, which made a “probable-cause determination against Phillips” in short order.

Phillips then sued the state in federal court claiming he was still being persecuted for his beliefs.

On Tuesday, Phillips’ legal team counted the stipulated dismissal as a victory.

“We’re pleased that the state will be dismissing its case against Jack,” said attorney Kristen Waggoner, of the Alliance Defending Freedom firm, who argued on behalf of Phillips at the U.S. Supreme Court. “This is the second time the state has launched a failed effort to prosecute him. While it finally appears to be getting the message that its anti-religious hostility has no place in our country, the state’s decision to target Jack has cost him more than 6 ½ years of his life, forcing him to spend that time tied up in legal proceedings.”

Each party has agreed to cover their own attorneys’ fees and dismiss their pending litigation – Masterpiece Cakeshop in federal court and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the state administrative court.

This settlement does not bar Autumn Scardina from pursuing her own litigation against the cake shop. Scardina did not respond to a request for comment.

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