Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig were sitting on their couch one Sunday morning in 2012, watching television. Craig turned to Mullins and said: "We should get married."
"Just so you know," Mullins replied, "I have a ring on hold for you."
When they were growing up, gay marriage was a foreign concept.
Craig, 34, grew up in a Wyoming town where he was viciously teased, even as he tried to deny his sexuality by dating girls. He graduated high school the year Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was killed because of his orientation.
Craig said he still feels awkward if Mullins holds hands with him in public. "I feel like something bad could happen to us," he said in their new town house in Denver, posters of Radiohead and Bjork on the walls.
Mullins, 29, grew up in Colorado at a time when voters passed a ballot measure to prevent any city from passing protections for gays. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the measure, laying the legal groundwork for gay marriage rulings nearly 20 years later.
The couple met in Denver through a mutual friend. A 2006 ballot measure outlawed gay marriages in Colorado, so they planned a small wedding in Massachusetts, where it was legal. That would be followed by a larger reception in Colorado.
The Lakewood restaurant hosting the reception suggested they get their cake at Masterpiece. They took Craig's mother, visiting from Wyoming, to the shop to help pick a cake. "We wanted this just to be about us," Mullins said.
The couple said Phillips' rejection was more painful than the times they have been slurred in public.
"It's like the institution and society are saying: 'You're not equal,'" Mullins said.
Within minutes of his Facebook post about the encounter, supportive messages began arriving in Mullins' account — and Phillips' shop was deluged with angry emails and phone calls.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint on the couple's behalf. Phillips' attorney argued, unsuccessfully, that the cake was a form of political speech.