Wedding cake ruling’s silver lining for LGBT rights

05 June, 2018, 20:23 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • J. Scott Applewhite  Associated Press file		The US Supreme Court building

The justices voted 7-2 Monday that the commission violated Phillips' rights under the First Amendment, but didn't weigh in on whether it's okay for businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ individuals on the basis of religious grounds more broadly.

"This little case was shaping up to become a vehicle that would finally resolve a cardinal question of constitutional law: whether or not the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause could be used to undermine decades of nondiscrimination law and subject gay people to the constant threat of humiliation in the public marketplace", Stern wrote.

Moreover, the court's decision is unlikely to stem the flood of cases seeking to chip away at LGBT rights under the banner of religious liberty.

In the court's opinion, Kennedy wrote situations like these "must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to honest religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and serves in an open market".

Mardi Moore, executive director of Out Boulder County, says one of her biggest fears in the wake of Monday's Supreme Court decision ruling in favor of Lakewood-based Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner Jack Phillips, is that other business owners may misinterpret the headlines.

He appealed the state's decision, but lost in the Colorado courts.

According to the opinion, the case hinged on how a Colorado Commission reviewing the case treated Phillips' and his religious beliefs.


Colorado Baker Jack Phillips had refused to serve a gay couple when they walked into his shop in 2012. In cases without such statements on the record, the precedent has not been completely set.

The court ruling was hailed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative nonprofit organization that supported Phillips' appeal. The baker's lawyers said the ruling emphasized that the government must respect religious beliefs.

The baker added that had the two men asked him for cookies, cupcakes or some other baked good, he would have made the creation, but "a wedding cake is inherently religious, a wedding is an inherently religious event and the cake is a specific message". The ruling, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, fortunately isn't as broad and all-encompassing as critics may initially think.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent which was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, argued that "when a couple contacts a bakery for a wedding cake, the product they are seeking is a cake celebrating their wedding - not a cake celebrating heterosexual weddings or same-sex weddings - and that is the service (the couple) were denied".

But the decision also did not permanently settle the clash between LGBTQ rights and religious freedom, an issue that's bound to continue dividing Americans and lead to future court cases on multiple levels. Phillips declined to make the cake, citing his Christian beliefs, and the couple purchased one from a different store.

The ruling comes almost six years after Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins walked into Phillips' shop with the intention of ordering a cake for their upcoming nuptials, only to instead be turned away.

Kennedy continued, "The official expressions of hostility to religion in some of the commissioners' comments-comments that were not disavowed at the Commission or by the State at any point in the proceedings that led to affirmance of the order-were inconsistent with what the Free Exercise Clause requires".

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