A notorious Christian baker at the centre of a landmark US court case has now got the backing of the Trump Administration.
Jack Phillips earlier this year claimed that Jesus Christ would discriminate against gay people.
Phillips of Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop is at the centre of a case over anti-LGBT discrimination that is set to be heard by the Supreme Court.
Phillips launched a legal challenge after being found in violation of state anti-discrimination laws for refusing to serve gay couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig.
The baker refused to make a cake for the couple after he found out they were celebrating their wedding, and continues to insist his religion requires discrimination against gay people.
After 86 members of Congress signed an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court supporting the baker’s right to discriminate, the Trump Administration has now also backed the baker.
The Justice Department on Thursday filed a brief to the High Court saying it backs the Masterpiece Cakeshop.
The Department said ruling against the bakery could create an “intrusion” against the First Amendment “where a public accommodations law compels someone to create expression for a particular person or entity and to participate, literally or figuratively, in a ceremony or other expressive event.”
An official told BuzzFeed News the Department chose to file in the case “because the First Amendment protects the right of free expression for all Americans.”
“Although public-accommodations laws serve important purposes, they — like other laws — must yield to the individual freedoms that the First Amendment guarantees,” the official added.
“That includes the freedom not to create expression for ceremonies that violate one’s religious beliefs.”
The baker is defended by hardline anti-LGBT law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, which has sought to undermine LGBT rights protections in a number of states.
Though the ADF is framing the issue around a religious objection to same-sex marriage, their other cases show a much wider support for anti-LGBT discrimination.
For instance, they have sued a school district over a transgender non-discrimination policy, and defended a T-shirt printer who refused an order from a Pride celebration.
A ruling in the Supreme Court in favour of the baker could have a chilling effect on LGBT rights protections country-wide, and equality activists fear it may end up creating a license for homophobic discrimination.
The gay couple in the case, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, have vowed to stand up for equality.
They said: “This has always been about more than a cake. Businesses should not be allowed to violate the law and discriminate against us because of who we are and who we love.
“While we’re disappointed that the courts continue debating the simple question of whether LGBT people deserve to be treated like everyone else, we hope that our case helps ensure that no one has to experience being turned away simply because of who they are.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado represent Mullins and Craig in the case.
James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT Project, said: “The law is squarely on David and Charlie’s side because when businesses are open to the public, they’re supposed to be open to everyone.
“While the right to one’s religious beliefs is fundamental, a license to discriminate is not.
“Same-sex couples like David and Charlie deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as anyone else, and we’re ready to take that fight all the way to the Supreme Court.”