Baker sues Colorado governor, claiming religious ‘persecution’
The Colorado baker who became a national figure after he refused to bake a custom cake to celebrate the marriage of a same-sex couple due to a religious objection and won at the Supreme Court is wading into another legal battle.
In a lawsuit against Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper filed on Tuesday in the US District Court for the District of Colorado, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips claims that the state “has been on a crusade to crush” him because state officials “despise what he believes and how he practices his faith.”
“This lawsuit is necessary to stop Colorado’s continuing persecution of Phillips,” it says.
The complaint alleges that not long after Phillips’ Supreme Court victory, the state of Colorado informed the baker that he had violated state law by refusing to create a cake with a blue and pink design requested by a Colorado attorney to “celebrate a gender transition.”
In addition to suing Hickenlooper, Phillips is suing the director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the state’s attorney general.
The lawsuit says Phillips “serves all people, but will not create cakes that express messages or celebrate events contrary to his religious beliefs.”
“The state’s continuing efforts to target Phillips do not just violate the Constitution; they cross the line into bad faith. This Court should put a stop to Colorado’s unconstitutional bullying,” the lawsuit further says.
In June, the Supreme Court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had showed hostility toward Phillips based on his religious beliefs. The ruling was a win for the baker, who had cited his beliefs as a Christian, but it left unsettled broader constitutional questions on religious liberty.
According to the new lawsuit, “Phillips declined to create the cake … because it would have celebrated messages contrary to his religious belief that sex — the status of being male or female — is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed.”
It goes on to say, “It is now clear that Colorado will not rest until Phillips either closes Masterpiece Cakeshop or agrees to violate his religious beliefs.”
Phillips is asking the court for relief, including “an award of punitive damages” totaling $100,000 against the director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division for what the lawsuit describes as the defendant’s alleged “unconstitutional actions.”
CNN has reached out to Phillips, his attorney and Hickenlooper for comment.
The Colorado Attorney General’s Office declined to comment to CNN on the lawsuit.
Rebecca Laurie, the spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, told CNN that the Colorado Civil Rights Division and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission are unable to comment regarding pending or active litigation.