Following Masterpiece Cakeshop case, leaders urge Colorado businesses to be “open to all”

On a frigid Thursday afternoon, local business, elected officials and LGBTQ leaders gathered in the parking lot of a west Denver auto shop to declare that Colorado businesses should be welcoming to people of all backgrounds and identities.

The gathering came after a U.S. Supreme Court case on whether a Lakewood baker had the right to refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds. The case made Colorado the focus of a national debate over religious liberty versus anti-discrimination law.

The Open to All Colorado initiative is part of a broader national campaign dedicated to promoting inclusiveness and non-discrimination as core principles at local businesses.

Supported and spearheaded by groups including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Good Business Colorado and the LGBTQ advocacy organization One Colorado, the campaign asks participating business to pledge to be open to all customers, hang a sign in their window or advertise their participation online and commit to having open discussions about their anti-discrimination business practices with customers.

“This is a message about our values as a business community,” Denver Metro Chamber President and CEO Kelly Brough said at Thursday launch event. “This is who we are as a business community. Respectful, open and inclusive and we will be that way forever.”

Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, invoked the Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Right Commission, in his comments Thursday. He noted that the court’s narrow ruling for the plaintiff upheld Colorado’s existing non-discrimination law.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Gary’s Auto Service on Santa Fe Drive is one of the businesses committed to being part of the Open To All Colorado campaign, a local outgrowth of a national LGBTQ movement dedicated to “the bedrock principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be Open to All.”

“It’s important that all Coloradans know that regardless of who they are that businesses in our state serve everyone on the same terms,” he said.

Open to All is dedicated, according to its website, to “the bedrock principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be Open to All.”

The public education coalition has 200 members, including the American Civil Liberties Union and prominent national LGBTQ rights groups like the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD. Major companies, including jeans maker Levi Strauss & Co., hotel brand Marriott International and ride-sharing company Lyft, have taken the Open to All pledge, vowing to provide a welcoming, safe environment for people of all races, religions, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities and physical and cognitive abilities.

The Open to All site includes a page dedicated to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

Jim Campbell, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom and cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, said his client’s business has been and remains open to all.

“It’s not a matter of Jack refusing to serve people, it’s a matter of him declining to make certain cakes that express certain message or celebrate certain events,” that conflict with his deeply held religious beliefs, Campbell said. “He’s been asked to make cakes with anti-LGBTQ messages and he has declined to do those.”

Thursday’s launch was held at Gary’s Auto Service near the intersection of Santa Fe Drive and West 12th Avenue in Denver. The shop’s owner, Dan Carpenter, has taken the pledge. His brother, Jimmy, was gay and died of AIDS.

“It’s simply the right thing to do,” Carpenter said of participating in Open To All Colorado. “There is no place for discrimination in this world.”

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