Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Christian baker Jack Phillips walked away from their legal fight on Tuesday, just moments before Phillips was scheduled to be deposed in an upcoming trial.
Both sides announced they would drop legal pursuits against each other, which means the state will no longer investigate its anti-discrimination complaint against Phillips and Phillips has dropped his lawsuit against the state.
“There is no doubt in my mind this is a victory because yesterday the state of Colorado was prosecuting Jack Phillips and today it is announced it no longer is,” said Phillips’ attorney Jim Campbell, at the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Phillips gained international attention after declining in 2012 to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, saying gay marriage conflicted with his religious beliefs. He was cited by state officials for violating Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws, which prohibit businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation.
He fought back and the case landed at the U.S Supreme Court last summer.
Phillips narrowly won that case, but the justices didn’t settle larger constitutional questions, including whether First Amendment religious protections are more important than a state’s anti-discrimination laws.
Phillips said he has been asked by customers — mostly in phone calls — to bake cakes that violate his Christian religion dozens of times since the high court announced it was taking his case. He always declines. Phillips also declines to bake cakes that are disrespectful of LGTBQ people or celebrate Halloween, he said.
“I’ll serve everybody who comes into my shop, it’s just that I don’t create every cake with every message,” he said in a February interview with CPR News.
In 2017, a woman named Autumn Scardina requested a cake celebrating a gender transition. Phillips declined. She filed a complaint with the civil rights commission, which cited Phillips. He, in turn, sued the state for discrimination, saying the commissioners were biased against him.
The case went in front of federal judge Wiley Daniel in January, who declined to drop it, noting in the courtroom this case was but a stop en route to higher courts.
In Scardina’s case, Phillips’ lawyers were seeking a preliminary injunction against the state — asking that state officials temporarily stop enforcing its civil rights laws. Phillips was moments away from being deposed in the case when both sides decided to walk away.
Weiser said in a statement that, “the larger constitutional issues might well be decided down the road, but these cases will not be the vehicle for resolving them.”
He also said he will work to uphold the state’s civil rights laws in future cases. Officials acknowledged trials carry risks for both sides — someone has to lose — and that there were problems with the case that made it imperfect to pursue.
The agreement does not preclude Scardina from pursuing her own legal action against Phillips. Her lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.