Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt failed Monday to create exemptions in Colorado's anti-discrimination law in cases of speech, artistic or religious expression.
The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed House Bill 1161 on Monday in a bipartisan 9-2 vote.
A Colorado Springs Republican, Klingenschmitt said he brought forward HB1161 to protect "the pro-gay baker's right to not print hateful speech that is being compelled by the government."
He referenced cases before the Colorado Civil Rights Division where a man filed complaints against three bakers for refusing to make a Bible-shaped cake with the words "Homosexuality is a detestable sin" and "God hates sin" quoted from Bible verses.
Klingenschmitt said his bill would prevent the government from compelling bakers to write words on cakes in violation of their beliefs.
Attorney Jack Robinson with Spies, Powers and Robinson, who is representing Le Bakery Sensual against one of the complaints, said he found it offensive that Klingenschmitt was using his client's case to promote legislation that misconstrues the issue.
"It's outrageous," Robinson said, adding that he refused Klingenschmitt's request that he testify in favor of the bill. "I think he knows exactly what he's doing, and it's sort of deliberately manipulative."
Klingenschmitt opened testimony by saying he asked all three bakers to come testify on the bill, but they said "we're afraid. We don't want to contradict our statements to DORA (the Department of Regulatory Agencies)."
Robinson said he refused to testify because Klingenschmitt's bill has nothing to do with his client's case.
"The reason why my client, Le Bakery Sensual, refused to make this cake is purely based on hate speech. It didn't have anything to do with religion," Robinson told The Gazette.
Klingenschmitt's bill would amend the state's public accommodation, law which prohibits the denial of goods, services, access to places of public accommodation based on a person's disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin or ancestry.
The legislation would prevent the state from enforcing that law in cases where speech or acts of artistic or religious expression would force someone to directly or indirectly endorse an ideology, ceremony, behavior or practice with which the person does not agree.
"My bill does not authorize blanket discrimination," Klingenschmitt said. "My bill would never deny somebody a sandwich or medical services, or the right to rent. My bill does not even contemplate those ideas. My bill is very narrowly tailored to protect the rights of artists and their speech and religious expression."
Among those testifying in favor of the bill was Stan Lightfoot, pastor of Rustic Hills Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. He said he fears that while governments force businesses to act in violation of their religious beliefs the next step is to force churches and ministers to act in violation of their religion.
"Many of us in ministry recognize that, despite government assurances to the contrary, we are next," Lightfoot said.
Earlier in the day, the House State Affairs Committee killed a similar bill, House Bill 1171 which would have created an act protecting the religious exercise from the state unless it was to further a compelling governmental interest.
Nathan Woodliff-Stanley , executive of Colorado ACLU, testified against both bills saying they support religious liberty.
"What religious liberty does not mean is the 'freedom' to enforce your religious beliefs or practices on other people, to use the power of government to favor or promote your religion, or to discriminate in business or the public arena against customers or employees," he said.