Engen one of 27 mayors to reaffirm LGBTQ rights amid Colorado “wedding cake case”

FILE PHOTO: Baker Jack Phillips decorates a cake in his Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado on September 21, 2017. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday regarding a Colorado wedding cake and the gay couple that was denied service, a coalition of city mayors issued a joint statement in a show of unity for LGBTQ Americans.

That list included Missoula Mayor John Engen – the only Montana city named.

Representing cities from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Everett, Washington, the mayors reaffirmed their belief that all citizens should be treated with dignity and respect, and live free from discrimination.

“As mayors of cities large and small, we hold a special responsibility to protect our residents and ensure their equal participation in public life,” the mayors stated. “Discrimination, whatever the cause, serves no purpose but to divide our communities, and we cannot allow our public square to become a place of fear, especially for marginalized communities like our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.”

The statement was prompted by the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case in which a Colorado bakery refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple celebrating its civil marriage.

While the bakery argues that selling a wedding cake to a same-sex-couple violated its freedom of expression and religious views, the couple sees it as discrimination. Both the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the state appellate court has already ruled in favor of the couple.

The case was heard Tuesday before the Supreme Court, in which justices expressed divided views on the issue. Legal experts say the case pits the claims of religious freedom against gay rights and could have sweeping implications depending on the outcome.

“This is an extension of our work in Missoula to ensure that all people have a fair shake in our communities,” Engen told the Missoula Current on Tuesday. “As the tone at the federal level trends toward divisiveness, local leaders are stepping up to speak the language of inclusiveness.”

Missoula was the first city in Montana to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance and establish a domestic partnership registry for all couples. Ginny Merriam, the city’s communications director, said the city also offers employee benefits for domestic partners, same-sex and opposite-sex couples alike.

“We affirm the right of all people to be treated with respect and served on equal terms,” the statement from the coalition of mayors read. “Equality for our LGBTQ residents does not reduce our freedom of speech nor our religious expression – it enhances it.”

List of city mayors who issued joined statement: 

  • Eric Garcetti — Los Angeles, CA

  • Darrell Steinberg — Sacramento, CA

  • John Heilman — West Hollywood, CA

  • Suzanne Jones — Boulder, CO

  • Michael B. Hancock — Denver, CO

  • Kristopher Larsen — Nederland, CO

  • Nancy Rotering — Highland Park, IL

  • Dale Berman — North Aurora, IL

  • Jon Mitchell — New Bedford, MA

  • Sly James — Kansas City, MO

  • John Engen — Missoula, MT

  • Lydia Lavelle — Carrboro, NC

  • Jennifer Roberts — Charlotte, NC

  • Jack Blalock — Portsmouth, NH

  • Victor De Luca — Maplewood Township, NJ

  • Ken Miyagishima — Las Cruces, NM

  • William Moehle — Brighton, NY

  • Stephanie Miner — Syracuse, NY

  • John McNally — Youngstown, OH

  • James Kenney — Philadelphia, PA

  • William Peduto — Pittsburgh, PA

  • Steve Adler — Austin, TX

  • Allison Silberberg — Alexandria, VA

  • Levar Stoney — Richmond, VA

  • Ray Stephanson — Everett, WA

  • Paul Soglin — Madison, WI