Supreme Court Says Colorado Erred in Gay Wedding Cake Case

The justices in a 7-2 ruling signed by Justice Anthony Kennedy said Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, did not violate the state's anti-discrimination law.

Initially, the Colorado courts ruled that the state's public accommodation law banned discrimination by companies offering their services to the public. In the end, the decision was modest enough to attract the votes of liberal and conservative justices on a subject that had the potential for sharp division.

Phillips appealed the decision, lost before the Colorado Court of Appeals, and eventually convinced the nation's highest court to hear the case.

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Christian baker from Colorado who, on religious grounds, had refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. The two men were going to be married in MA, and they were looking for a wedding cake for a reception in Colorado. Members of the commission had suggested that Phillips was claiming religious freedom specifically so he could discriminate, and had not given a fair consideration to the bakery's claims. State courts sided with the couple, prompting Phillips to appeal to the top US court.

"Creative professionals who serve all people should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment", ADF Senior Council Kristen Waggoner said.

Nevertheless, Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal firm that was quick to aid Phillips in the early stages of the case, issued a statement celebrating the decision.

That same sentiment suffused his opinion on Monday. The Court ruled that the bakers were protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and that the discrimination rules were not viewpoint neutral for religious believers.

The other liberally leaning justices, Elena Kagan (appointed by Obama) and Stephen Breyer (appointed by Clinton) joined in with the conservatives. Kagan wrote separately to emphasize the limited ruling.

This is a legitimate basis, to be sure, for deciding the case (though Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor disagreed that such discrimination against the religious was showin this particular case).

Kennedy's opinion can be read in part as a model of avoiding the hardest issues raised by a case.

Republican President Donald Trump's administration, which intervened in the case in support of Phillips, welcomed the ruling.

The decision means that a final determination from the court on whether individuals and businesses have a First Amendment right to discriminate against same-sex couples may come a later time. The Supreme Court rightly concluded that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to show tolerance and respect for Mr. Phillips' religious beliefs.

In his writing, Kennedy denounced one commissioner having brought up slavery and the Holocaust before blasting Phillips' religious freedom claim as a "despicable piece of rhetoric" to "use their religion to hurt others".

Phillips was at his shop Monday morning, where he was busy answering the phone and getting congratulations from his supporters in person, including his pastor.

If you, or one of your employees, has a strong religious belief that prohibits him or her from creating something for a customer, you're not required to do so.

  • Rogelio Becker