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Colorado Appeals Court Rules Against Baker Who Refused Gay Couple's Wedding Cake

Court rules against religious liberty, free speech claims.

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WASHINGTON — The Colorado court of appeals on Thursday ruled that a baker there violated the state's nondiscrimination law by refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex couple's wedding.

In doing so, the court rejected the baker's claim that forcing him to do so violated his free speech and religious freedom rights.

"Masterpiece remains free to continue espousing its religious beliefs, including its opposition to same-sex marriage," the court held. "However, if it wishes to operate as a public accommodation and conduct business within the State of Colorado, CADA prohibits it from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation."

The unanimous decision of the three-judge court upheld lower administrative decisions, including from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, that also found against the bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and its owner Jack C. Phillips.

In detailing the legal issues in dispute, the court noted that Masterpiece and Phillips argued that they had not treated the same-sex couple differently because of their sexual orientation but, instead, only was addressing their opposition to the conduct of a same-sex couple's intent to marry.

The court held, however, that "discrimination on the basis of one's opposition to same-sex marriage is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

The case is one of several that have arisen across the country in the wake of marriage equality — although some, like a New Mexico case involving a photographer, were not tied to marriage ceremonies but related instead to commitment ceremonies. The cases also are being fought out as state legislatures in several states have considered expanding religious liberty protections, with some legislation attempting to address cases involving wedding-related service providers.

Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.

Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.

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