CO Civil Rights Commission Upholds Ruling Forbidding Bakery from Discriminating Against Gay Couple

by Charles Joughin

Business owner’s personal religious beliefs are not a legal reason to discriminate

 WASHINGTON – Today the Colorado Civil Rights Commission upheld administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer’s ruling that Masterpiece Bakery in suburban Denver could not turn away lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people seeking to purchase goods.  Judge Spencer ruled in December of 2013 that the bakery would face fines if they continue to discriminate against customers based on their sexual orientation.  The bakery owner appealed the decision to the full state Civil Rights Commission, which upheld Judge Spencer’s decision.  Colorado law prohibits public accommodations, including businesses like Masterpiece Cakeshop, from refusing service to customers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Public accommodations refers to both governmental entities and private businesses that provide services to the general public such as restaurants, movie theaters, libraries and shops. It does not encompass private clubs that have a membership or dues process.

“A business owner's personal beliefs should never be reason enough to discriminate against a customer because of who they are or who they love," said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) legal director Sarah Warbelow.  "Religious groups have a long established first amendment ability to operate according to their own beliefs.  But when individuals or businesses go out into the commercial market, they must abide by the law.  We congratulate the plaintiffs in this case and their attorneys with the ACLU on this important victory.”

Today 17 states have laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Another four states have outlawed such discrimination for sexual orientation only.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.



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