Supreme Court vacates $135K fine against Ore. couple who refused to serve gays

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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The U.S. Supreme Court vacated on June 17 a $135,000 fine against an Oregon-based family business that refused based on religious objections to make a wedding cake in 2013 for a same-sex couple.

In an order list on Monday, the Supreme Court indicated it had issued summary disposition in response to the petition for certiorari filed by Aaron and Melissa Kline, vacating the decision against the couple and remanding it back to the Oregon Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court’s action falls short of recognizing the First Amendment right sought by the couple to refuse service to same-sex couples.

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Wash. high court again rules against florist who refused to serve gays

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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In the aftermath of being forced to reevaluate it decision following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the Washington State Supreme Court has again concluded Arlene’s Flowers violated the state’s LGBT non-discrimination law by refusing to provide floral services to a same-sex wedding.

The 76-page decision finds previous decisions in the case were reviewed correctly under the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious neutrality. Thus, the new decision reaches the same conclusion Baronelle Stutzman violated state law in 2013 by refusing to serve a same-sex couple seeking to buy wedding flowers.

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New agreement ends litigation against Masterpiece Cakeshop

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Masterpiece Cakeshop — famed for its case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court after its owner refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple — has reached a new agreement with the State of Colorado to end subsequent litigation against him.

As part of the new agreement, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission will withdraw its administrative action against owner Jack Phillips. The commission found probable cause the bakery violated state law by refusing to make a cake celebrating a gender transition for a transgender person’s birthday.

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We look back on 2018, a midterm year for a country that’s just living on a prayer

By : Jeremy Williams and Ryan Williams-Jent
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It’s been two years since we, as a country, entered into the reality that is the Trump Administration. The country feels more divided than ever and the phrases “fake news” and “it’s all a witch hunt” are commonplace.

The violence that seems to define who Americans are these days is also there, particularly in Florida, where there has been no justice for the five transgender women of color who were murdered and yet another mass shooting—this time at a high school in Parkland, Fla.—pulled the focus of the world to our state.

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Colorado baker back in court over 2nd LGBT bias allegation

By : wire report
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DENVER (AP) | Attorneys for a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds — a stand partially upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court — argued in federal court Dec. 18 that the state is punishing him again over his refusal to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition.

Lawyers for Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver, are suing to try to stop the state from taking action against him over the new discrimination allegation. They say the state is treating Phillips with hostility because of his Christian faith and pressing a complaint that they call an “obvious setup.”

“At this point, he’s just a guy who is trying to get back to life. The problem is the state of Colorado won’t let him,” Jim Campbell, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said after the hearing. The conservative Christian nonprofit law firm is representing Phillips.

State officials argued for the case to be dismissed, but the judge said he was inclined to let the case move forward and would issue a written ruling later.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission said Phillips discriminated against Denver attorney Autumn Scardina because she’s transgender. Phillips’ shop refused to make a cake last year that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside after Scardina revealed she wanted it to celebrate her transition from male to female.

She asked for the cake on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would consider Phillips’ appeal of the previous commission ruling against him. In that 2012 case, he refused to make a wedding cake for same-sex couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the Colorado commission showed anti-religious bias when it sanctioned Phillips for refusing to make the cake, voting 7-2 that it violated Phillips’ First Amendment rights.

But the court did not rule on the larger issue of whether businesses can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gays and lesbians.

Phillips’ lawsuit alleges that Colorado violated his First Amendment right to practice his faith and 14th Amendment right to equal protection. It seeks $100,000 in punitive damages from Aubrey Elenis, director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman says the case should be dismissed because of state efforts to enforce its order against Phillips. A state hearing is scheduled for February to determine what will happen next.

Deputy Attorney General LeeAnn Morrill told Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel that the commission did not mention religion in its latest finding against Phillips. She said the commission also has used the state’s anti-discrimination law to protect people who have faced bias because of their faith.

The judge said he thought the Supreme Court’s ruling had more relevance in the current case than the state acknowledged and quoted from the justices’ opinions during the hearing. He mentioned now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy’s conclusion that the commission had shown “hostility” toward religion.

Wiley said he would have to hear evidence before deciding whether to temporarily block state proceedings.

In the lawsuit, Phillips’ attorneys say he “believes as a matter of religious conviction that sex — the status of being male or female — is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed.”

It claims Phillips has been harassed and received death threats and that his small shop was vandalized while the wedding cake case made its way through the courts.

Anti-LGBT petitions before Supreme Court could make for dire term

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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A number of anti-LGBT petitions are before the U.S. Supreme Court, although legal experts say adjudication of these cases — if justices agree to take them up — may not be as bad as some observers fear.

With one exception, each of the petitions before the court calls for a rollback of LGBT rights or a reversal of decisions from lower courts affirming LGBT rights within those jurisdictions.

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Another gay wedding cake case reaches Supreme Court

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Months after the U.S. Supreme Court in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case issued a narrow ruling in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a custom-made wedding cake for a same-sex couple, anti-LGBT legal groups are before justices again seeking a more expansive decision allowing refusal of service to LGBT people.

As reported SCOTUSblog on Monday, the Texas-based law firm First Liberty has filed before the Supreme Court a petition on behalf of Aaron and Melissa Kline of Sweetcakes in Gresham, Ore., asserting a First Amendment right to decline wedding-related services to same-sex couples.

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‘Superman’ actor Dean Cain slammed for speaking at anti-LGBT event

By : MARIAH COOPER OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Actor Dean Cain, best known for portraying Superman on the TV series “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” came under fire after he agreed to speak at the Family Research Council’s Value Voters summit over the weekend.

The Family Research Council has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center which describes the group’s intention as “to denigrate LGBT people as the organization battles against same-sex marriage, hate crime laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.” The summit’s lineup included names such as Michele Bachmann, Mike Pence, Tony Perkins and Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips.

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Jack Phillips in court again after refusing to make cake for trans customer

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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The owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who became notorious after a lawsuit against him for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple went to the U.S. Supreme Court, finds himself back in litigation — this time because his bakery wouldn’t make a cake celebrating the transition of a transgender person.

Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT legal firm that represented Phillips in the wedding cake lawsuit, announced on Wednesday it has sued the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for finding probable case he violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act for refusing to make the cake.

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New Trump administration memo on Obama order alarms LGBT advocates

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the Trump administration has issued new guidance that seeks to uphold “religious freedom” in the implementation of former President Obama’s executive order against anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors — a move troubling to LGBT rights supporters.

The Aug. 10 guidance from the Labor Department purports to “incorporate recent developments in the law regarding religion-exercising organizations and individuals” with the enforcement of the executive order, taking note of the narrow ruling in decision of Colorado baker Jack Phillips as well as other recent rulings in favor of religious freedom, such as the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case.

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Justice Kennedy announces plans to step down from Supreme Court

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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U.S. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy — the author of major U.S. Supreme Court rulings in favor of gay rights — has announced plans to step down from the bench.

Major media outlets reported Kennedy — appointed by President Reagan in 1988 — announced plans to step down Wednesday afternoon as the court’s 2017-2018 term came to a close. The Washington Blade confirmed Kennedy’s plans for departure with the Supreme Court.

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Supreme Court sends back ‘religious freedom’ case from anti-gay florist

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers is seeking an OK to refuse service to gay couples. Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday announced that it has sent back for review to Washington State a lawsuit filed by an anti-gay florist seeking a First Amendment right to refuse service to same-sex weddings.

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