Law360, Washington (June 4, 2018, 10:46 AM EDT) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Christian baker who refused to bake a custom wedding cake ordered from a same-sex couple in a high-profile LGBT rights case involving the state of Colorado, though it largely ducked the core constitutional questions in the case.
Colorado law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the commission concluded that Phillips' refusal violated the law.
What the ruling did not do, however, was set a larger precedent for whether or not a business owner can claim religious freedom when choosing not to serve members of the LGBTQ community. "I believe these decisions are consistent with the Founders' intent to protect the rights to the free exercise of religion and freedom of speech that are enshrined in the First Amendment".
"It narrowed the holding to this particular case, but at the same time the inquiry done by the court could be interpreted as something that will allow for discrimination to occur based on religious beliefs", Bermudez told us. The 7-2 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission pitted a clash of freedom of religion against gay rights.
Mullins and Craig said they were disappointed with Monday's Supreme Court decision, but said they were glad the court didn't make a bigger statement about the validity of Colorado's anti-discrimination act.
"The commission's hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment's guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion", Kennedy wrote. The majority begins its analysis by emphasizing that "gay persons and gay couples can not be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth".
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"This country was founded on freedom of religion and we're not asking that to be changed", she said.
Conservative Christians also saw the case as a victory. President Donald Trump's administration intervened in the case in support of Phillips.
The same idea crops up in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent, joined by Justice Sonya Sotomayor, in which she argues that there is no First Amendment question at all in the Masterpiece case, because "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".
However, given the harsh words the justices had for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, many states with similar laws will now be looking carefully at how they prosecute such cases. I don't have a state administrative process to go through (in Ohio) as they do in Colorado.
While Whittle has no issue putting together attractive arrangements for same-sex ceremonies, he said he doesn't think any business owner should be forced to create something against their will.
Despite the outcome, the couple said it doesn't consider the case "a lost cause".
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"I don't discriminate against anybody", he said.
Jack Phillips, the Lakewood baker at the center of a legal battle over a same-sex wedding cake, will try to enter the wedding business again.
"Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society, yet the state of Colorado was openly antagonistic toward Jack's religious beliefs about marriage".
"We have an election, and the governor we elect this November will make the next three appointments", Gardner said.
"This is a real victory for Jack who has been fighting the courts for several years and nearly went out of business", Hausknecht said. She teaches a gay legal issues course at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and has followed the Colorado baker case.
The court controversially ruled in favour of Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop after he refused a wedding cake to a same-sex couple.
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Hickenlooper said the Supreme Court ruling is being taken seriously.