Hundreds of protesters waited outside the U.S. Supreme Court on a chilly Tuesday morning as the Justices heard arguments on a controversial case pitting LGBT rights against religious freedoms.
Nearly five years after Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, people across the country are worried about how the Supreme Court's decision on the case will impact freedoms for Americans.
"The repercussions of this case affect everybody. It's not just Christians, it affects everybody," said Matt Sharp, 36, from Atlanta.
Phillips lost his case in the lower court and was ordered by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples. Since then, he's stopped making wedding cakes all together in order to uphold his religious beliefs.
"Like many other creative professionals, I don't create custom designs for event and messages that conflict with my conscience," Phillips said outside the court.
For many of Phillips' supporters, losing the case would be a fatal blow to religious expression.
"It's going to open a pandora's box to anybody that they're going to be forced to do things that violate their conscience, their morals, their faith, on both sides of it," said Richard Penkoski, a 41-year-old preacher from Martinsburg, West Virginia.
"If we lose, if Jack loses this case, you're talking about - you know opening this up to where a Nazi can go to a Jewish bakery and force the Jewish baker to put a Nazi symbol on a cake," he added.
But LGBTQ advocates fear that a win for Phillips in this case could open the door to more discrimination.
"If the Supreme Court finds in favor of Jack could that not be the thumb taken out of the dyke and a floodgate of discrimination would take place in America setting us back decades," said Rev. Raedorah C. Steward, a preacher at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Washington D.C.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will review a controversial case that could have major implications for the LGBT community and religious expression.
It all started five years ago with a cake.
Colorado baker Jack Phillips refused to make a wedding cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig, a same-sex couple, because he said it would violate his religious convictions.
Under the state's anti-discrimination laws, private businesses cannot refuse to provide services to customers based on their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. The state's civil rights commission ruled against Phillips and ordered him to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples. Phillips was also ordered to submit reports to the committee on which cakes he refused to make and why.
In order to uphold his religious beliefs, Phillips has now stopped making wedding cakes all together, which he said has cost him 40 percent of his income and more than half of his employees.
The case has made it all the way to the highest court in the nation. Phillips argues that his cakes are works of art, and that he should not be compelled to use his artistic talents in a way that violates his religious beliefs.
"It's not about turning away these people, it's about not doing a cake for an event, a religious, sacred event, that conflicts with my conscience," Phillips said in an interview with Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit organization defending Phillips at the Supreme Court.
But LGBT rights advocates worry that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Phillips and grants him an expemption from Colorado's anti-discrimination laws, then it could open the door to discrimination by business owners all over the country.
“Cakes can often have artistic or creative designs. So can sandwiches, legal briefs, bicycles, cars, flowers, medical care,” American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Chase Strangio argued in a recent blog post.
This isn't the first case to pit LGBT rights and religious expression against each other.
Earlier this year, Washington state's Supreme Court ruled against a florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. In October, two women who design custom wedding invitations lost their latest challenge in Phoenix and were ordered to create invitations for same-sex weddings.
In September a court ordered a farmers market in Michigan to reverse its ban on a farmer who would not allow same-sex couples to get married at his orchard, a popular wedding venue.
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