Attorney General Alan Wilson joins coalition supporting free speech of small business owners
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Attorney General Alan Wilson has joined a coalition of 16 state attorney generals supporting free speech rights of small business owners.
The coalition argues custom cakes are artistic works, and therefore, protected by the First Amendment, presented during Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop Inc. before the Colorado Court of Appeals.
“The right to free speech is precious to all our citizens and cake bakers are no different,” Attorney General Wilson said. “The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled in favor of this same small business in a previous First Amendment case so we know we’re on solid legal ground.”
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado creates custom cakes. He declined to make a custom cake celebrating a gender transition because he believed it would have violated his religious beliefs.
Phillips was sued and accused of violating the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. The trial court found he was in violation of CADA and rejected the First Amendment protects Phillips.
The coalition argues the court can look to the Supreme Court’s repeated protection of art, apply the same principles, and recognize Phillips is actually protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression.
Protecting business owners’ freedom of speech is a priority for the coalition and something the courts have upheld several times. In 2019, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled the City of Phoenix could not force calligraphy artists to create custom wedding invitations for same-sex weddings.
The court determined the city’s interest in ensuring equal access to goods and services was not sufficiently overriding as to justify compelling Plaintiffs’ speech by commandeering their creation of custom wedding invitations.
The Masterpiece Cakeshop has been the subject of a First Amendment case before. In 2012, Phillips declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding because it contradicted his religious beliefs.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled then that Phillips violated CADA. The Supreme Court of the United States reversed that decision under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.
Joining Attorney General Wilson are the attorney generals of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia
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