Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Colorado Bakery, In Court Again, Loses Attempt to Dismiss Transgender Discrimination Claim

 In Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc.,(CO Dist. Ct., March 4, 2021), a Colorado state trial court dismissed Colorado Consumer Protection Act claims against a bakery that has been the subject of extensive litigation over its refusal to design wedding cakes for same-sex weddings. In the current case, plaintiffs claimed that the bakery engaged in misleading advertising indicating that they would sell birthday cakes to LGBT individuals. The court dismissed the claim because "the most salient materials Plaintiff allegedly relied on are not advertisements," but were news articles and op-eds. However the court refused to dismiss plaintiff's Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act claim that she was discriminated against because of her transgender status when plaintiff refused to make a blue and pink cake celebrating her gender transition. The court said in part:

Whether making Plaintiff’s requested cake is inherently expressive, and thus protected speech, depends on whether Defendants would thereby convey their own particularized message, and whether the likelihood is great that a reasonable observer would both understand the message and attribute that message to Defendants.... The Court cannot conclude, based on the current record, that the act of making a pink cake with blue frosting, at Plaintiff’s request, would convey a celebratory message about gender transitions likely to be understood by reasonable observers. Further, to the extent the public infers such a message, that message is far more likely to be attributed to Plaintiff, who requested the cake’s simple design. Therefore, if Defendants violated CADA here, they have not shown that their freedom of speech would be violated by holding them liable.