US Attorney General claims group that backed bakery for refusing gay couple are ‘not a hate group’

The US attorney general has defended conservative organisation Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which backed a lawsuit by a Colorado bakery that refused to serve a gay couple, saying it is “not a hate group.”

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled on June 4 in favour of Jack Phillips, a baker who was battling the Colorado Civil Rights Commission over his refusal to provide gay wedding cakes.

The court’s decision was heavily criticised by LGBT+ rights campaigners. However, the Trump administration said it was “pleased” with the ruling. 

Now, in a speech on religious freedom on Wednesday evening, attorney general Jeff Sessions voiced his support for ADF.

“When I spoke to ADF last year, I learned that the Southern Poverty Law Center had classified ADF as a ‘hate group,’ ” Sessions said. “They have used this designation as a weapon and they have wielded it against conservative organisations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy.”

“You and I may not agree on everything, but I wanted to come back here tonight partially because I wanted to say this: You are not a hate group,” Sessions said, which was met with applause from the crowd.

He continued: “Just as sincerely held religious beliefs would not be a defence to a hate crime prosecution, vilifying others in the name of religion should not immunise a group from being designated as a hate group, in our view,” Cohen said.

“And it’s ironic to suggest that the rights of ADF sympathisers are under attack when the ADF is doing everything in its power to deny the equal protection of the laws to the LGBT community.”

The 23-minute talk was streamed on ADF’s Facebook page.

Sessions also praised Phillips for standing up “for what he believed in,” describing the Supreme Court ruling as a “victory.”

The attorney general previously voiced his view that organisations should be able to discriminate against LGBT+ people on the grounds of religious freedom at the Religious Liberty Summit on July 30.

Watch the video below: 

LGBT rights groups lamented the decision of the US Supreme Court to rule in favour of a baker who refused a cake to a same-sex couple. The court ruled 7-2 in favour of Phillips.

Gay couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, who were denied a cake by Phillips, said the decision “means our fight against discrimination and unfair treatment will continue.”

They added: “We have always believed that in America, you should not be turned away from a business open to the public because of who you are.

“We brought this case because no one should have to face the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation of being told ‘we don’t serve your kind here’ that we faced, and we will continue fighting until no one does.”

Pro-LGBT law firm Lambda Legal lamented at the time: “This 7-2 ruling, while limited, invites discrimination and further efforts to justify withholding service from LGBTQ people. This will encourage all sorts of mischief by well-funded anti-LGBTQ organizations who want to create exceptions to nondiscrimination laws.

“We’re going to see years of needless, hurtful litigation by those seeking to evade responsibility for discriminating against members of our community.

“The Court today has turned its back on longstanding precedent and offered not just encouragement but a roadmap to those who would deny civil rights to LGBTQ people and people living with HIV.

“Religious freedom under our Constitution has always meant the right to believe whatever you wish. NOT to act on your beliefs in ways that harm others.

“SCOTUS has become an accomplice in the right’s strategy to hollow out one of its finest achievements, the right to equal marriage, and create what Justice Ginsberg memorably termed ‘skim milk marriages.’

“We are ready to fight back and make sure this heartbreaking and infuriating decision is understood for what it is: a narrow ruling limited to unique facts that cannot be used to justify discrimination in any other context.

“We will continue to fight in every arena and in every court until LGBTQ people and people living with #HIV have full equality under the law in every aspect of our lives. We deserve no less.”

Charlie Craig and husband Dave Mullins, who were denied a cake by Masterpiece Cakeshop, outside the US Supreme Court (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty)

On the day of the ruling, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: “In today’s narrow ruling against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court acknowledged that LGBTQ people are equal and have a right to live free from the indignity of discrimination.

“Anti-LGBTQ extremists did not win the sweeping ‘license to discriminate’ they have been hoping for – and today’s ruling does not change our nation’s longstanding civil rights laws.

“Yet, the fact remains that LGBTQ people face alarming levels of discrimination all across the country and HRC’s efforts to advance equality are as urgent as ever.

“With LGBTQ people at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services in 31 states, HRC continues to build momentum for the Equality Act, to elect pro-equality candidates up and down the ballot, and fighting in every corner of our country to advance policies that protect LGBTQ people from being targeted for who they are or whom they love.”

Read the full report here.