The cake artist, the floral artist, and the t-shirt printer.
If you’ve followed the work of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) over the years, you’ve likely heard the stories of Jack Phillips, Barronelle Stutzman, and Blaine Adamson. You’ve watched the ups and downs of their cases – from death threats to victory at the U.S. Supreme Court. And you’ve stood by them as their governments targeted them for simply operating their businesses consistently with their faith.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve prayed and hoped that each of these clients would win their cases, return to their normal lives, and that no one else would have to face what they have.
But if “Equality Act” legislation is passed, we will likely be hearing a lot more of these stories.
Proposed by members of Congress in March, and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May, the “Equality Act” adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes to already existing nondiscrimination laws. While this might sound nice to some, the bill is deceptively named. The “Equality Act” actually poses a devastating and unprecedented threat to the religious freedom of business owners and creative professionals nationwide.
Blaine, Jack, and Barronelle are proof of that.
When two men walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop and requested a custom cake celebrating their same-sex wedding, Jack politely declined. He explained that while he would be happy to sell them anything else in his shop, he could not create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage. Jack loves and serves all people, but he cannot use his artistic talents to celebrate events or express messages against his faith.
Jack could never have imagined that remaining true to his religious beliefs would result in death threats, a six-year legal battle, the loss of 40 percent of his business and half of his employees, and the repression of his artistic and religious freedom.
But that’s exactly what happened. After the couple left Jack’s shop, they filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. And the commission found that Jack had violated the state’s sexual orientation, gender identity law, which is similar to the “Equality Act.”
ADF represented Jack in this lawsuit all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the government acted with impermissible hostility toward Jack’s religious beliefs.
Barronelle had served her longtime customer and friend Rob Ingersoll for nearly 10 years when he came into her shop and asked her to design custom floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding.
Barronelle loved creating unique floral arrangements for the special occasions in Rob’s life, but she knew this was one event that she could not celebrate. Barronelle gently explained to Rob that she couldn’t participate in a same-sex wedding because of her faith. Rob said he understood, they hugged, and he left the shop.
But not long after, the Washington state attorney general heard about this interaction on social media. And he decided to make an example of Barronelle using the state’s sexual orientation, gender identity law. Later, the ACLU also sued Barronelle on behalf of Rob and his partner. These lawsuits threaten Barronelle not only professionally, but also personally. If she loses her case, she could lose everything she owns.
In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court sent Barronelle’s case back to the Washington State Supreme Court, where it currently sits, for reconsideration in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
When Blaine Adamson politely declined to print t-shirts promoting the Gay and Lesbian Service Organization’s (GLSO) pride festival, he knew he was headed for a storm.
Blaine has declined many t-shirt requests in the past, including requests for shirts promoting violence, adult films, and a local strip club. Still, Blaine offers to connect those customers to a different printer that will create the requested shirts. That’s exactly what he did when he received the call from the GLSO.
While Blaine serves all people, he cannot print every message that is asked of him.
But that wasn’t enough for the GLSO. The organization filed a complaint against Blaine with a local government agency – which found that Blaine had violated a local sexual orientation, gender identity ordinance. In addition to the lawsuit, Blaine has endured a boycott, hateful emails, phone calls, and Facebook comments, public criticism from his mayor, and the loss of business from large customers.
Blaine has been involved in this lawsuit for the past seven years. And while two different courts have ruled in Blaine’s favor, the government continues to appeal. Blaine’s case is currently at the Kentucky Supreme Court awaiting a hearing.
Laws similar to the “Equality Act” have been used to target Jack, Barronelle, Blaine, and more at the local and state level. If the “Equality Act” is passed, it would become the law of the land, threatening all creative professionals and business owners who wish to live and work consistently with their faith.
We can’t allow the government to have that kind of power. Otherwise, it could target any business owner whose beliefs aren’t in line with its favored point of view. And that should concern us all.
To learn more about the “Equality Act” visit www.AllForFreedom.com.