AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and officials from 19 other states filed a brief with the Supreme Court of the United States supporting a bakery owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed in September.
Texas was joined in the support statement by Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Maine.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
“This compulsion of speech is constitutionally forbidden,” the brief said. “And for good reason: Government power to order individuals to speak in a manner that violates their conscience is fundamentally at odds with the freedom of expression and tolerance for a diversity of viewpoints that this nation has long enjoyed and promoted.”
In addition, the states said in the brief that Colorado, where Jack Phillips operates the business in question, Masterpiece Cakeshop, has other ways to ensure that couples seeking cakes for a same-sex wedding know which “cake artists” are willing to design their cakes, rather than forcing Masterpiece Cakeshop to do so against its religious beliefs.
“For example, states can create online tools publicizing those artists who will create works celebrating same-sex weddings,” the brief said. “Compelled private speech is thus not a necessary means to this end.”
The states said in the brief that this case is different because it deals with art.
“Public-accommodation concerns of past eras are not present here; customized pieces of art are not public accommodations (like restaurants and hotels), the artist plainly did not act out of invidious discrimination and complainants had immediate access to other artists, in any event,” the brief said. “If states wish to facilitate the commissioning of artistry for same-sex weddings, they must look to more nuanced and less invasive approaches.”
According to a December 2017 release from the Texas Attorney General’s Office, Paxton ruled in 2015 that “county clerks and judges retain religious freedoms, and that the government cannot compel them to issue licenses or conduct same-sex ceremonies over their religious objections.”
The SE Texas Record’s requests for interview to contacts for both sides were not returned.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the Masterpiece Cakeshop case after the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in decision in favor of defendant Colorado Civil Rights Commission.