Masterpiece Cakeshop Wins Supreme Court Decision

J. Scott Applewhite  Associated Press file		The US Supreme Court building

J. Scott Applewhite Associated Press file The US Supreme Court building

While the justices split in their reasoning, only Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. In other words, it may not apply to future disputes that pit religious liberty against claims of discrimination.

Colorado is one of 22 states that include sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination law, which allowed Mr Craig and Mr Mullins to win their case before the state's Civil Rights Commission. Colorado ruled that this counted as discrimination against gay people, which violates state law.

Kennedy said the case presents hard questions about reconciling two principles: the authority of states to protect the rights and dignity of gay people who seek goods and services for their weddings, and the rights of people to free speech and free exercise of religion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion that the larger issue "must await further elaboration" in the courts.

It started back when Charlie Craig and David Mullins went into Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012 and asked for a cake for their wedding reception. But the critical question of when Phillips' right to exercise his religion can be limited had to be determined, Kennedy emphasized, in a proceeding that was not tainted by hostility to religion. Those bakers would not bake the cake as requested and were not sanctioned by the state Civil Rights Commission.

"I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting", Rice said during consideration of Phillips' case.

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During oral arguments in the case before the Supreme Court, Kennedy has expressed concern over these words from the commission, prompting observers to speculate might issue a decision punting in the case and remanding it for reconsideration without hostility toward religion.

Human Rights Campaign held a press conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court in October prior to delivering an amicus brief supporting gay couples in Masterpiece Cakeshop. "The first is the authority of a State and its governmental entities to protect the rights and dignity of gay persons who are, or wish to be, married but who face discrimination when they seek goods or services", Kennedy wrote.

Phillips told the couple he didn't make cakes for same-sex weddings, prompting them to file a civil rights complaint.

The case had been closely watched among civil rights groups and LGBTQ activists, who feared that a more sweeping ruling could have undermined same-sex marriage if the high court found a broader religious freedom exemption. The 7-2 ruling is on a Colorado Christian baker who said his religion prohibits him from "celebrating" or "participating" in a same-sex wedding, which he believes includes baking a wedding cake. Colorado state courts upheld the determination. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as recently named Colorado justice Neil Gorsuch (who filed a concurring opinion), Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer and, surprisingly, Elena Kagen, an appointee of President Barack Obama.

This report was updated with comment about the Supreme Court's ruling.

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