The Department of Justice (DOJ) under President Donald Trump has conveyed its support to a Christian baker who is currently involved in a legal battle at the U.S. Supreme Court over his refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
On Thursday, the DOJ filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, who was found to have violated Colorado's anti-discrimination act for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex couple in 2012.
"Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights," Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall wrote for the Justice Department.
"The government may not enact content-based laws commanding a speaker to engage in protected expression: An artist cannot be forced to paint, a musician cannot be forced to play, and a poet cannot be forced to write," Wall continued.
The brief stressed that even the majority opinion in the Obergfell case, which legalized same-sex marriage across the U.S., emphasized upholding First Amendment protections for religious objectors. It also noted that Colorado did not acknowledge the validity of same-sex marriages when Phillips declined to make a wedding cake for the gay couple, adding that the state only began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2014.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is representing the same-sex couple in the case, decried the DOJ's decision to file the brief.
"This Justice Department has already made its hostility to the rights of LGBT people and so many others crystal clear," Louise Melling, ACLU's deputy legal director, as reported by The Christian Post.
"But this brief was shocking, even for this administration. What the Trump Administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate," she added.
Several other friend-of-the-court briefs have also been filed on behalf of Phillips. On Thursday, 86 U.S. Congressman signed an amicus brief that questioned whether Colorado's public accommodation law can "compel artists to create expression that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage."
Phillips filed an appeal to the Supreme Court after lower courts found him guilty of discriminating against same-sex couple Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig in 2012, when he refused to make a cake for their wedding.
The court agreed to hear the case in June and the oral arguments are expected to be scheduled this fall. Last week, lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed their opening brief on behalf of Phillips.