SLC mayor, council want U.S. Supreme Court to side with same-sex couple in wedding cake case

Posted at 2:59 PM, Nov 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-02 20:08:55-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Mayor Jackie Biskupski and the city council are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule against a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple citing a religious objection.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski puts up the first sign renaming a part of 900 South as "Harvey Milk Boulevard" on May 13, 2016. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

In a "friend of the court" filing alongside dozens of other cities and counties, the mayor and Salt Lake City Council urged the nation's top court to uphold non-discrimination laws. FOX 13 first reported on the filing on Monday.

"To claim some religious reason why you can’t provide a service to someone and you are a public business is in complete violation of the Civil Rights Act," Mayor Biskupski said in an interview with FOX 13 on Wednesday.

The mayor said she opposed the idea of creating a "license to discriminate" in public accommodations.

"We don’t want to see signs up that we used to see. 'Whites only,' 'No Jews,'" she said. "It’s the same thing."

Salt Lake City Councilman Derek Kitchen also signed on to a separate amicus brief from business and restaurant owners who support non-discrimination.

"In supporting this amicus brief, we are showing the rest of the country the values of Salt Lake and Utah matter. We want the Supreme Court to hear that loud and clear," he told FOX 13.

Kitchen was the lead plaintiff in a landmark lawsuit against the state of Utah that led to the ban on same-sex marriage being overturned. Biskupski is the first openly gay mayor in Salt Lake City and married last year.

Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity after being legally married in Utah on May 24, 2015. (Image by Eric Brown, FOX 13 News)

"This isn’t just about a cake or a suit or whatever product you may be providing somebody. At the end of the day, this is about a neighbor or a community member and not rejecting them based on simply who they are," Kitchen said.

The case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in December. Owner Jack Phillips refused to make a wedding cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig, citing his religious objection to same-sex marriage. Colorado sided with the couple and ruled Masterpiece Cakeshop violated the state's public accommodation laws, which forbid discrimination based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

Many powerful entities in Utah have taken an interest in the case. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and 22 of the state's 24 Senate Republicans signed on to amicus briefs in support of the cake shop.

The Utah Senate Republicans urged the U.S. Supreme Court to find a compromise between religious freedom and LGBTQ rights, citing their own deal to craft a law banning discrimination in housing and employment in the state.

"In my opinion, the business simply says they would give service to everyone. But because of their deep-seeded religious beliefs they have a challenge trying to actually balance those two," Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton, told FOX 13 in September. "We need to find a way for the business to give that service but allow the individual to be able to step off and follow their conscience."

Mayor Biskupski said she disagreed with state leaders who supported the cake shop.

"I think it’s unfortunate that we are encouraging this somehow in this state. Why would we want to do that? We are a state that was built on the backs of people who were discriminated against based on their religious beliefs," she told FOX 13. "What did we learn from that?"