SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee has thrown his support behind a Colorado baker and a Washington state florist who are involved in court battles for refusing their services for same-sex couple’s weddings.
The Utah Republican will join several GOP members of Congress at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday supporting Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips' case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Phillips refused to create a cake for the wedding reception of a gay couple who were planning to marry in Massachusetts. The couple filed discrimination charges and won before a civil rights commission and in the courts. Phillips appealed, and the nation's top court agreed in June to hear the case.
Lee and the others have also urged the Supreme Court to hear a case involving the owner of Arlene's Flowers, Barronelle Stutzman, who refused to make a floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding. Stutzman is also scheduled to attend the news conference.
"Like the Masterpiece Cakeshop case the court has already agreed to hear, this case involves more than a clash between norms of nondiscrimination and religious liberty," according to friend-of-the-court brief Lee signed onto in the Stutzman case.
"The more fundamental question in both cases is whether a government can coerce religious believers to speak or act contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs."
Attorney Gene Schaerr, who represented Utah in the Kitchen v. Herbert same-sex marriage case, wrote the brief on behalf of 29 Republican senators and representatives.
Lee has said free speech rights are under assault and some same-sex marriage extremists are trying to use the power of the state to punish those who have traditional religious beliefs about marriage.
He intends to re-introduce his First Amendment Defense Act this year, which he has said would prevent the federal government from discriminating against particular disfavored religious beliefs. Lee is still working on some language in the bill, according to his office.
Critics of the previous version of the legislation say it would invite discrimination against LGBTQ people.