US Supreme Court backs Christian baker who refused gays' wedding cake request

Jun 05, 2018, 00:43
US Supreme Court backs Christian baker who refused gays' wedding cake request

The case focuses on what it calls "hostility" from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission - which initially ruled against Jack Phillips, the baker at Masterpiece Cakeshop who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple for their wedding back in 2012.

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. For instance, Kennedy notes, "it can be assumed that a member of the clergy who objects to gay marriage on moral and religious grounds could not be compelled to perform the ceremony without denial of his or her right to the free exercise of religion". In particular, Kennedy pointed to the fact that the Commission said that religious freedom has been used to justify such atrocities as slavery or the Holocaust.

The Court found that Colorado's Civil Rights Commission, which enforces discrimination policy, operated in a manner at odds with religious tolerance.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the court's ruling, in an opinion joined only by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the two men who were turned away by Phillips, filed a complaint with the state, and its civil rights commission decided unanimously he had indeed violated the state's law.

The Trump administration sided with Phillips.

During oral arguments in the case, Kennedy was visibly angry about the disparaging comments made by a commissioner when the state commission held its hearing on the discrimination charge. "The court was right to condemn that", said lawyer Kristen Waggoner of the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Phillips.

The gay couple at the center of the story, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, were married legally in MA, but wanted the cake baked for their wedding reception in Colorado in 2012.

Phillips opened the bakery in 1993, knowing at the outset that there would be certain cakes he would decline to make in order to abide by his religious beliefs.

It's an issue at the heart of a similar case involving Richland florist Barronelle Stutzman, who refused to create flower arrangements for the wedding of same-sex couple Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed because of her religious beliefs.

Phillips contended that dual guarantees in the First Amendment - free speech and the free exercise of religion - protect him against Colorado's public accommodations law, which requires businesses to serve customers equally regardless of "disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry".

Phillips now sits vindicated by the Supreme Court. But the 7-2 decision was narrow in its scope, leaving open the possibility that a similar case might be brought before the court in the future, and that it could go the other way. The government can not treat a person's religious beliefs with hostility, he wrote, yet that's what the Commission did here, and this is what led to Kagan's concurrence. Its staff demonstrated a "clear and impermissible hostility toward the honest religious" and did not make efforts to accommodate the religious freedom of the business owners.

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