DENVER — A suburban Denver baker who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple cannot cite his Christian beliefs in refusing them service because it would lead to discrimination, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

The three-judge panel said in a 66-page ruling that Colorado’s anti-discrimination law does not prevent baker Jack Phillips from believing what he wants but that if he wants his business open to the public, he is prohibited “from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation.”

The decision is the latest victory for gay couples, who have won similar cases in other states. Gay rights supporters and religious freedom advocates have passionately debated whether individuals can cite their beliefs as a basis for declining to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony.

And it is bound to get more heated after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. That decision makes the Colorado case “all the more urgent and all the more critical,” said Nicolle Martin, one of Phillips’ attorneys.

His attorneys previously said they would consider appealing up to the nation’s high court, noting that more cases are likely to arise in which businesses’ religious convictions clash with gay rights. But any appeal first would go to the Colorado Supreme Court.

“Jack simply exercised the long-cherished American freedom to decline to use his artistic talents to promote a message with which he disagrees,” said another of Phillips’ attorneys, Jeremy Tedesco, with the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom. “The court is wrong to deny Jack his fundamental freedoms.”