ADL to Supreme Court: Reject Discrimination in Colorado Bakery Case

Denver, CO, October 30, 2017 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today joined a friend-of-the court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging rejection of a bakery’s claim that the Free Exercise Clause to the First Amendment empowered it to refuse the sale of a wedding cake to a same-sex couple based on the owner’s religious beliefs.

The brief filed by a coalition of civil rights and religious organizations asserts the Court should uphold a lower court ruling that the bakery’s denial of service violated Colorado prohibitions on sexual-orientation discrimination in the sale of goods or services by public accommodations. ADL’s brief also stresses that anti-discrimination laws like Colorado’s embody First Amendment principles by prohibiting religious discrimination and protecting our nation’s vibrant diversity.   The bakery, however, is claiming that the Free Exercise Clause exempts violations of anti-discrimination laws which are motivated by religious beliefs.

“The religious liberty protections in the Colorado and U.S. Constitutions are a shield for the exercise of one’s faith, not a sword to impose religious beliefs on others in the marketplace,” said Scott L. Levin, ADL Mountain States Regional Director. “The argument that discriminatory conduct is exempt from the law because of religious beliefs undermines the rule of law in our pluralistic democracy.

“The harmful impact of such a ruling would be nearly limitless,” Levin said. “While this case may involve a same-gender couple, the next one could involve a bakery refusing to sell a Bar Mitzvah cake, a restaurant refusing to serve a Muslim, or a Jewish landlord evicting a Catholic or Evangelical Christian. The Court cannot condone Americans being forced to hide their true personal identities in order to be served in the marketplace.”

The brief further explains that particularly for generally applicable laws such as Colorado’s anti-discrimination statute, the First Amendment’s religion clauses do not grant businesses religious exemptions that harm others.

ADL had previously filed an amicus brief in this case entitled – Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission – with the Colorado Court of Appeals.  The Appeals Court upheld a Colorado Civil Rights Division’s determination that the Cakeshop violated the State’s Anti-Discrimination Act when based on the owner’s religious opposition to same-sex marriage it refused to design and sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple.

The amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court was primarily authored by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and also joined by the following organizations:  Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice; Fairness West Virginia; Interfaith Alliance Foundation; National Council of Jewish Women, Inc.; and People For the American Way Foundation.


The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.  Today it is the world’s leading organization combating anti-Semitism, exposing hate groups, training law enforcement on hate crimes, developing anti-bias curricula for students, countering cyber-hate and relentlessly pursuing equal rights for all. Follow us on Twitter: @ADLDenver

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