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A suburban Denver baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple will argue in court Tuesday that his religious beliefs should protect him from sanctions against his business.

The case underscores how the already simmering tension between religious-freedom advocates and gay-rights supporters is likely to become more heated in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling last month legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

"What the relationship is between that reality and sort of what that will mean for things like service provisions is where I think the battles will really be fought now," said Melissa Hart, a law professor at the University of Colorado.

The 2012 case before the Colorado Court of Appeals has ignited a passionate debate over whether individuals can cite their beliefs as a basis for declining to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony or if such refusals on religious grounds can lead to discrimination allegations.

Gay couples have won battles in other states.

Last week, the owners of a Portland, Oregon-area bakery that declined to make a wedding cake for a gay couple two years ago were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages. Two years ago, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a photographer who wouldn't take pictures of a gay couple's 2006 commitment ceremony violated the state's discrimination law.


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