Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
In this March 10, 2014 photo, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake inside his store, in Lakewood, Colo. Phillips is appealing a recent ruling against him in a legal complaint filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission by a gay couple he refused to make a wedding cake for, based on his religious beliefs. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
How a wedding cake became a cause
First Published Apr 05 2014 04:00 pm • Last Updated Apr 05 2014 04:45 pm

Lakewood, Colo. • The encounter at Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop lasted less than a minute.

Phillips stepped out from behind the counter in his small, pastry-crammed shop to meet customers Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins. They told him they wanted a cake to celebrate their own marriage.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Phillips replied he couldn’t, but that he’d be glad to make one for other occasions, such as birthdays. Left unsaid was how making a gay wedding cake would violate his Christian faith, how he does not make ones for Halloween or bachelor parties, either.

Craig and Mullins left the shop, stunned. Left unsaid was how they viewed themselves as a regular couple, their wedding a private celebration, not a political statement. They simply wanted a no-frills cake.

Crushed, they posted a note about the encounter on Facebook and soon the cake had become a cause, with the sides becoming stand-ins for the culture wars: Phillips was portrayed as the intolerant business owner. The couple became the gay rights activists pushing their agenda, some claimed.

It was one of several incidents that inspired legislation in at least 11 states that would have allowed business owners to cite their religious beliefs in denying service to patrons. Most have died amid a national outcry that they would legalize discrimination.

Along the way, the stories of those caught up in the clash over fast-changing social mores can get lost. Phillips, Craig and Mullins are just three.

———

Phillips, 57, grew up near the teeming strip mall that houses his bakery in Lakewood, on the edge of Denver’s suburban sprawl.

After graduating high school, Phillips went to work at a bakery and found he enjoyed the adrenaline kick and sense of achievement that came from catching doughnuts as they came off the conveyor belt and glazing and sprinkling them.


story continues below
story continues below

Nowadays, he loves his work for the way it lets him improve people’s lives. "That’s," he said, "what Christ does."

Phillips grew up in a religious household, but in his early 20s he felt adrift. He drank and fathered two children with his girlfriend Debbie. As he was driving one day, he felt something extraordinary. "The Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin," he recalled.

Shaken, he told Debbie that night he had found Christ. She said the same had just happened to her. They married and had a third child.

Eventually Phillips started his own shop, serving residents of the new housing developments that were rising nearby. His daughter and 87-year-old mother also work there now.

From the start, he knew there’d be limitations on what he could do. "In everything I do, I think about how people will perceive Christ through me, by what I sell, what I make," Phillips said.

The display cases bulge with cakes of every color. One depicted a trio of crosses on a hill, with the words "He Has Risen."

Phillips takes his cake-making personally. As he prepares a cake for a child’s first birthday, Phillips makes a separate cupcake-sized piece to be placed on the kid’s high chair, envisioning the moment the tot will dig into it, smearing frosting across his or her face.

For weddings, he interviews the couple to find out how they met, their mutual interests, what color dresses the bridesmaids will wear.

"When I decorate a cake, I feel like I’m part of the party," said Phillips, who had refused previous orders for cakes for gay weddings.

Phillips said he once employed a gay man in his bakery and makes regular birthday cakes for a lesbian couple. His youngest daughter, Lisa Eldfrick, 34, said Phillips never had problems with her and her siblings’ various gay friends.

Since Mullins and Craig visited in July 2012, gay marriage has been legalized in nine states. Polls show that a majority of Americans now approve of it. Phillips is unruffled.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.