Supreme Court rules on side of Lakewood baker

Refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding triggered lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Lakewood’s Masterpiece Cakeshop in a case that LGBTQ advocates and religious freedom advocates alike have been eyeing closely.
Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips has been part of the passionate debate over religious freedom and equal rights since 2012, when he declined to make a custom wedding cake for same-sex couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins, citing his religious beliefs.
However, those looking for a sweeping decision on these larger issues may come away disappointed. In its 7-2 decicsion in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, the Supreme Court decided that the commission’s actions violated the Free Exercise Clause.
Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor were the two dissenting voices in the ruling, which was issued on June 4, and Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for the court. In it, he said the state's Civil Rights Commission did not consider Phillip's case free of religious bias.
“When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires,” Kennedy wrote in his opinion. “The delicate question of when the free exercise of his religion must yield to an otherwise valid exercise of state power needed to be determined in an adjudication in which religious hostility on the part of the State itself would not be a factor in the balance the State sought to reach.”
After Phillips refused to bake the wedding cake, the couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission stating that Phillips violated the state’s public accommodations law that specifically prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The commission ruled against Phillips in May 2014 and the appeals court upheld the decision in May 2015.
In the appeals court decision, Judge Daniel Taubman said Masterpiece is free to continue to share its religious beliefs — including not recognizing same-sex marriage.
“However, if it wishes to operate as a public accommodation and conduct business within the State of Colorado, (Colorado law) prohibits it from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation,” Taubman wrote.
In September, the Department of Justice filed a brief on behalf of Phillips, agreeing with his argument that his cakes are a form of artistic expression and he can’t be forced to make something that would be contrary to his beliefs.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and oral arguments began on Dec. 5.
Colorado's branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said it wasn't the outcome the group was hoping for, but tweeted “The Court did not rule that the Constitution gives a right to discriminate,” and added “Colorado law prohibits discrimination based on who you are. We're confident the courts will once again rule that businesses don't have a right to discriminate.”
Phillips worked Monday at his bakery, but directed media questions to his lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization that “advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith” and represented Phillips before the Supreme Court, called the commission’s 2014 decision a way to “punish Phillips for living and working consistent with his religious beliefs about marriage.”
“Jack serves all customers; he simply declines to express messages or celebrate events that violate his deeply held beliefs,” said Kristen Waggoner, the alliance’s senior counsel. “Creative professionals who serve all people should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment.”


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