You cannot log onto Facebook or Twitter without seeing something about the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision. A quick perusal of the relevant articles indicate something big occurred, but what does it mean for a Colorado business?
The answer is relatively simple: nothing. It is business as usual in Colorado. The Supreme Court changed nothing in regard to the relevant Colorado law, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). CADA provides that:
It is a discriminatory practice and unlawful for a person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an individual or a group, because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation. [C.R.S. § 24-34-601(2)(a)]
This means that a Colorado business can still be sued for violations of CADA, including a refusal to provide service to an individual based on a classification liisted in the statute.
So what did happen? The decision appears to be the result of the Supreme Court trying to avoid making bad law in either direction by focusing on the biased conduct of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC) rather than the Constitutional rights claims of the individuals versus each other. The court determined that the CCRC process was biased, as reflected in comments from commissioners and later decisions by the CCRC. The court reversed the CCRC's determination, and as a result the baker ultimately won because the process he was given was deemed unfair. On a related note, the Colorado legislature recently re-constituted the CCRC to make it a more fair and balanced panel, including adding a Colorado businessperson to the panel.
While the Supreme Court did not weigh in on the balance between freedom of speech, religious freedom, and the rights of gays and lesbians to receive goods and services, it did note that such disputes need to be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincerely held religious beliefs, and without indignities to gays and lesbians when they seek services and goods in the marketplace.
For now, Colorado businesses should continue with business as usual and should abide by CADA. If you have any questions about the parameters of CADA and how to interpret it, we encourage you to speak with our of our attorneys.
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