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Lawmakers add to the mix in same-sex wedding cake case

Todd Ruger, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers weighed in on the legal issues before the Supreme Court's oral arguments Tuesday about whether a Colorado baker who calls himself an artist can decline to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

As Republican lawmakers led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said in a brief filed with the court, "This case, of course, goes beyond a cake."

It is the most closely watched item facing the justices this term. The case pits LGBT rights against the free speech and free exercise rights of those with religious objections -- the latest front in a social debate that has unfolded in courts across the country in recent years.

Dozens of civil rights, religious, legal and other groups filed briefs to sway the justices. People lined up to save a spot in the courtroom days in advance. Lawmakers plan to speak at rallies in front of the Supreme Court all morning.

While the court filings argue whether a Colorado anti-discrimination law requires Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips to design a custom wedding cake against his religious beliefs, the Republican brief brings some cake-related artistry of its own.

Take this line: "Cake carries within itself a message of bounty and plenty."

 

Cruz and the Republicans are suggesting that a custom wedding cake is protected speech under the First Amendment because the design and the cake itself say something and have meaning.

The GOP brief includes references to a "Cake Wrecks" blog that documents bad cakes, a description of the 2012 wedding cake of the duke and duchess of Cambridge, and photographs of Phillips using an artist's brush to adorn the cake with a flower.

"In fact, society so expects customized messages in wedding cakes, deviating from expectations in the tiniest way is often seen as a message about the parties," the Republican brief states. "The cake's message transcends food."

Beyond the flowery language, the 11 senators and 75 representatives who signed the Republican brief argue that leaving in place lower court rulings -- which found Phillips in violation of Colorado's civil rights laws -- "would trample the rights of all Americans, by placing a special burden on those Americans trying to earn a livelihood consistent with their religiously informed beliefs."

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