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Colorado justices consider a pink and blue cake's meaning in a transgender discrimination case

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Colorado justices consider a pink and blue cake's meaning in a transgender discrimination case
News

News

Colorado justices consider a pink and blue cake's meaning in a transgender discrimination case

2024-06-19 03:15 Last Updated At:03:20

From plain white cakes to rainbow-colored ones, the Colorado Supreme Court considered a variety of hypothetical cake-design scenarios Tuesday as it heard arguments in the case of a Christian baker who refused to make a pink cake with blue icing to celebrate a gender transition.

The case involving Denver-area baker Jack Phillips is the latest of three in Colorado pitting LGBTQ+ civil rights against First Amendment rights. In a previous case, Phillips scored a partial victory before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 after refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple's wedding.

The Colorado Supreme Court took Tuesday's oral arguments in the transgender celebration cake case under advisement without ruling right away.

The case originated when Phillips initially agreed to make a cake for attorney Autumn Scardina but then refused after Scardina explained she was going to use it to celebrate her gender transition.

The Colorado Court of Appeals sided with Scardina, ruling that the pink-and-blue cake — on which Scardina did not request any writing — was not speech protected by the First Amendment.

The Colorado Supreme Court justices asked attorneys for both sides what sort of cake without any writing on it a baker could refuse to make while the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits refusing to provide services based on protected characteristics such as race, religion or sexual orientation.

They also asked if Phillips would have agreed to make an identical cake for different purposes, such as to celebrate the birth of boy-and-girl twins.

“It’s only when they get into the home of the consumer that they take on the message. They are the same cake. It’s all a pink cake with blue icing," Justice Melissa Hart told Phillips' attorney, Jake Warner, in suggesting other, hypothetical scenarios involving pink-and-blue cakes.

Warner maintained the cakes Phillips creates are protected free speech. He told the justices that what Scardina told Phillips about the purpose of the cake mattered for his free-speech rights.

“It became a different message when Phillips was told it was to celebrate and symbolize a transition from male to female,” Warner told the justices. “Cakes can appear facially identical and you can have facially identical content that expresses a different message.”

Warner drew a line, however, and said Phillips would have to sell pre-made cakes, including pink cakes with blue icing, to anyone for any purpose.

Justice Maria Berkenkotter asked Phillips if he thought a white cake with white frosting could be refused to be made for a customer who said it represented gender transition.

“But that cake is lacking the symbolism,” Phillips said. “The message is not as clearly in the cake as we have here.”

Later, Justice Monica Márquez asked Scardina's attorney, John McHugh, if Phillips would have agreed to make a rainbow-colored cake similar to rainbow designs used to promote LGBTQ+ identity.

“They would happily make the same cake for other customers,” McHugh said, referring to previous statements by Phillips.

Cake features were not a factor in Phillips' partial victory in the gay couple’s case against him before the U.S. Supreme Court, which found the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was unfairly dismissive of Phillips’ religious beliefs.

Another recent case in Colorado centers on freedom of speech and LGBTQ+ rights. Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado graphic artist who didn’t want to design wedding websites for same-sex couples.

Graphic artist Lorie Smith, who like Phillips is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, challenged the same state law. The court’s conservative majority said forcing her to create websites for same-sex weddings would violate her free speech rights.

Both sides in the dispute over Scardina’s cake order think the new U.S. Supreme Court ruling bolsters their arguments.

FILE - Baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., manages his shop, June 4, 2018, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that his refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs did not violate Colorado's anti-discrimination law. The Colorado Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in a lawsuit against Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to make a cake celebrating a gender transition, one of three such cases from the state that have involved LGBTQ+ civil rights and First Amendment rights. Two cases have centered Phillips. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

FILE - Baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., manages his shop, June 4, 2018, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that his refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs did not violate Colorado's anti-discrimination law. The Colorado Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in a lawsuit against Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to make a cake celebrating a gender transition, one of three such cases from the state that have involved LGBTQ+ civil rights and First Amendment rights. Two cases have centered Phillips. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

FILE - Colorado lawyer Autumn Scardina poses for photos outside the Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center in Denver, Oct. 5, 2022. The Colorado Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in a lawsuit against Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to make a cake celebrating a gender transition. Phillips was sued by Scardina, a transgender woman, after Phillips and his suburban Denver bakery refused to make a pink cake with blue frosting for her birthday and to celebrate her gender transition. (AP Photo/Colleen Slevin, File)

FILE - Colorado lawyer Autumn Scardina poses for photos outside the Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center in Denver, Oct. 5, 2022. The Colorado Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in a lawsuit against Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to make a cake celebrating a gender transition. Phillips was sued by Scardina, a transgender woman, after Phillips and his suburban Denver bakery refused to make a pink cake with blue frosting for her birthday and to celebrate her gender transition. (AP Photo/Colleen Slevin, File)

FILE - Jack Phillips, who's case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court five years ago after he objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple, speaks to supporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Dec. 5, 2022. The Colorado Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in a lawsuit against Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to make a cake celebrating a gender transition, one of three such cases from the state that have involved LGBTQ+ civil rights and First Amendment rights. Two cases have centered Phillips. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE - Jack Phillips, who's case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court five years ago after he objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple, speaks to supporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Dec. 5, 2022. The Colorado Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in a lawsuit against Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to make a cake celebrating a gender transition, one of three such cases from the state that have involved LGBTQ+ civil rights and First Amendment rights. Two cases have centered Phillips. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Retired Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg was released from New York City's Rikers Island jail on Friday after serving a sentence for lying under oath, his lawyer and correction department officials confirmed.

The former chief financial officer at Donald Trump’s real estate company has since been reunited with his family, his lawyer, Seth Rosenberg, wrote in an email without elaborating.

The city’s Department of Correction declined to provide more detail about Weisselberg’s discharge other than to confirm his release is reflected in its online inmate database.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in March to committing perjury during his testimony in the fraud lawsuit that New York’s attorney general brought against the former president.

Weisselberg admitted lying about how Trump’s Manhattan penthouse came to be overvalued on his financial statements.

In return for pleading guilty to two counts of perjury, prosecutors agreed not to prosecute him for any other crimes he might have committed in connection with his longtime employment by the Trump Organization.

“Allen Weisselberg accepted responsibility for his conduct and now looks forward to the end of this life-altering experience and to returning to his family and his retirement,” his attorney, Seth Rosenberg, said after he was sentenced in April.

It was Weisselberg’s second stint behind bars. The 76-year-old served 100 days in jail last year for dodging taxes on $1.7 million in company perks, including a rent-free Manhattan apartment and luxury cars.

Weisselberg, who was employed by Trump’s family for nearly 50 years, testified twice during trials that went badly for Trump. Each time, he took pains to suggest that his boss hadn’t committed any serious wrongdoing.

FILE - Allen Weisselberg, a former longtime executive in Donald Trump's real estate empire, arrives at the court in New York, Wednesday, April. 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)

FILE - Allen Weisselberg, a former longtime executive in Donald Trump's real estate empire, arrives at the court in New York, Wednesday, April. 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)

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