WASHINGTON – The conversation lasted just 20 seconds, but it could alter public life in the United States.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments in the case of a Christian baker, Jack Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, when they came to his Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, in July 2012.
In remarks to EFE, Mullins said that when he and his partner sat down with the owner he immediately asked them for whom the cake was to be prepared. When the couple said it was for them, the baker responded that he would not bake a cake for a gay couple.
After a long silence, Craig and Mullins left the store.
That brief conversation then was the catalyst for a legal battle between the couple, who are waging a fight for equal rights, and Phillips, who says baking a cake for a same-sex couple would violate his religious beliefs and also his right to freely express himself.
In documents filed with the Supreme Court, Phillips describes himself as a “cake artist” rather than a baker.
He argues that his cakes are a form of artistic expression and that baking one for a same-sex couple not only would run counter to his religious beliefs but also violate his right to free speech.
After the incident inside the bakery, Craig and Mullins sued Phillips for discrimination before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. They won that case and a court in that same state subsequently upheld the ruling.
But Phillips continued to appeal and the case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which is expected to hand down a ruling by June 2018.
A total of 19 states and more than 100 local governments have passed laws banning discrimination in public places for reasons of sexual orientation.
Since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in a historic 2015 ruling, various florists, bakers and photographers have refused to provide service to same-sex couples.