Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig actually tried to avoid politics when they decided to get married.
The two were never activists in the gay rights movement. When they decided to get married on their couch on a Sunday morning in February 2012, they chose Provincetown, Massachusetts for the ceremony — a place known to be a gay-friendly vacation spot — specifically so they wouldn’t have to deal with any pushback on their decision.
This was years before the U.S. Supreme Court would rule that gay marriage was legal in all 50 states and before civil unions were legal in Colorado.
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“We wanted the whole moment to just be about us and our love. We thought it would be great to have our very close friends and our very close family members come with us to celebrate that, you know, somewhere that would validate that,” Craig said. “But what has transpired since has been very different than what we actually wanted initially.”
Returning to Colorado, they went to Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop with Craig’s mother to order a wedding cake for a Colorado party to celebrate their marriage. He turned them down, based on his Christian beliefs. The couple took their case successfully to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Phillips took legal action action that went all the way to the Supreme Court. And last week, the court sided with Phillips.
The two have kept a low-profile In the aftermath of the decision, which overturned lower court decisions stating that Jack Phillips violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws by refusing to make them a custom wedding cake.
The very public legal battles have consumed their marriage and relationship for six years. The couple has talked about the case every single day. They’ve done roughly 300 media interviews. Speaking just a couple of days ahead of the ruling, Mullins said it has been overwhelming.
“There is a lot riding on this. There is a lot of responsibility and it's impossible to separate yourself from that,” he said. “In the end, we feel responsibility for how this turns out and that can be a lot to take some days.”
Mullins was raised in Highlands Ranch and attended the University of Denver, where he graduated in three years. He came out to his parents before college and never struggled too much with his sexuality.
He actually considered himself apolitical until the day he and Craig were turned away at Masterpiece Cakeshop.
“It was like I was gay, but I didn't want to suddenly make that what I did, as opposed to just who I was,” he said. “Choosing to live as a gay person is different than just feeling an attraction to someone of the same sex.”
Craig didn’t come out to his family until his early 20s. He struggled with his sexuality in high school, where he says bullies picked up on his struggles. He attended college at the University of Wyoming in Laramie — the city where Matthew Shepard, a gay man, was murdered in the late 1990s — and he said being out there was always a concern.
Craig often escaped to Denver, the big city, to get away. He says his hardships in these formative years pushed him to fight for himself on the cake case.
“I think that was the big reason why I really decided to stand up for myself in this case in general,” he said. “Because I felt like I had taken so much criticism over my life and it was just like I felt empowered and I felt like it was time to stand up for myself.”
For six years, the couple’s marriage has been defined and consumed by the wedding cake case.
They both have put career and personal ambitions on hold, Craig went to school to design retail windows and hasn’t launched that career yet due to all the obligations of the case. Mullins’ greatest ambition is to be a published poet, but he hasn’t had the energy, after his day job as an office manager at a real estate firm, and the demands on him from the case, to feel very creative.
During downtime, Mullins and Craig like to play games, including Scrabble. They have started a small sculpture garden in their Denver yard and they enjoy art shows and going dancing.
Although they say they are lifetime activists now, with everything behind them, they say they hope to move on and make their marriage more personal — and less political.
“We’ve always been a great team,” Mullins said. “We’re still processing feelings here.”
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