Three Maine chefs, including a James Beard Award winner, have signed a friend-of-the-court brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case that pits the First Amendment and religious expression against same-sex civil rights.

The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop versus the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, involves a Colorado bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The “Chefs for Equality” brief was filed Monday, according to the Human Rights Campaign, and is signed by 222 chefs, bakers and restaurateurs from every state. Signers include such well-known culinary celebrities as Jose Andres, Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio, Carla Hall, Padma Lakshmi and Christina Tosi.

The brief says, in part, that the First Amendment “does not allow a chef, baker, or other culinary artist to refuse to provide a generally offered service based on the identity of the customer.” When a chef offers something to the public, the brief says, “he must offer it to all.” And there is no basis in the law, the brief says, to recognize an exception for wedding cakes.

Mike Wiley, winner of the 2017 James Beard Best Chef: Northeast award, said he signed onto the brief when he learned of it from a new employee who had received a copy from friends. Wiley is co-owner of Hugo’s, Eventide Oyster Co. and The Honey Paw. The employee, Katharine Marsh, is the former head chef at The Spotted Pig, a celebrated restaurant in New York City.

“She’s moved to Maine with her wife and is working full time at Hugo’s,” Wiley said.

Marsh signed the brief and asked Wiley if he were interested, Wiley recalled. The chef said he was “surprised and disappointed” to learn that all states were represented in the brief but Maine.

“It was right in line with my politics, and so I thought why not?” he said.

Wendy Larson, the chef-owner of Slates Restaurant & Bakery in Hallowell, signed on after Betsy Sweet, a progressive activist who is running for governor, called and asked her if she would. Larson’s bakery makes the occasional wedding cake, but does not specialize in them.

“I don’t believe in discrimination against anybody,” she said. “Human rights is very big to me. I just wanted to support it, and I felt like Hallowell should be represented.”

Robert Brown, innkeeper at the Rockmere Lodge in Ogunquit, is also listed as a signer, but contacted Thursday, he said he had “no idea” how his name got on the document.

The wedding cake case dates back to 2012, when Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., refused to sell a couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a personally designed cake for their reception. Phillips offered to sell them a pre-made cake, and told them he also does not make Halloween cakes because of his religious convictions. Phillips claims to be protected by his religious beliefs and the First Amendment; the couple, represented by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, calls it discrimination.

The ‘Chefs for Equality’ brief was written by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, an international law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on Dec. 5.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MeredithGoad

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: