The Trump administration has outlined its support for Christian baker Jack Phillips, who declined to make a cake for a gay wedding, and his Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado in a friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights," Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall wrote for the Justice Department, according to CNN.
"The government may not enact content-based laws commanding a speaker to engage in protected expression: An artist cannot be forced to paint, a musician cannot be forced to play, and a poet cannot be forced to write."
The brief was filed Thursday, following several other friend-of-the-court briefs, including one from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is a major religious liberty case that is being closely watched by both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.
Phillips is challenging lower court decisions that found him guilty of discriminating against same-sex couple Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig in 2012, when he refused to make a cake for their wedding.
The Supreme Court announced in June that it will hear the Christian baker's appeal. Alliance Defending Freedom lawyers filed their opening brief on behalf of Phillips last week.
Justice Department spokesperson Lauren Ehrsam said in relation to the filing that the "First Amendment protects the right of free expression for all Americans."
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the same-sex couple, slammed the decision to file the brief.
"This Justice Department has already made its hostility to the rights of LGBT people and so many others crystal clear," said Louise Melling, ACLU's deputy legal director.
"But this brief was shocking, even for this administration. What the Trump Administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate."
Attorney General Ken Paxton also led a 20-state coalition in filing an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of Phillips, highlighting the artist's "constitutionally-protected right to religious liberty."
"The Supreme Court has the opportunity to affirm that the First Amendment contains robust protections for people who choose to operate their businesses consistent with their faith," Paxton said.
"The owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop should be allowed to choose what he will or won't create without fear of being unjustly punished by the government."
Texas joined in the amicus brief along with the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and Governor LePage of Maine.
The ADF brief last week noted that Phillips has relied on his Christian faith to guide his work for decades.
"Those beliefs inspire him to love and serve people from all walks of life, but he can only create cakes that are consistent with the tenets of his faith. His decisions on whether to design a specific custom cake have never focused on who the customer is, but on what the custom cake will express or celebrate," ADF said.
Over the last two decades as a baker in Colorado, Phillips has also declined to make Halloween cakes, anti-American cakes, adult-themed cakes, and cakes containing alcohol, among others.