SCOTUS Overturns Case Against Gay-Biased Baker

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding over religious reasons. In a landmark 7-2 ruling (Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor against), the Court found that the decision by Jack Philips of Masterpiece Cakeshop to refuse the same-sex couple's request is protected under the first amendment. 

In 2012 gay fiancés David Mullins and Charlie Craig asked Philips to create a custom cake for their wedding. Philips, who does not make cakes for Halloween, adult parties, anti-American messages or themes which he has religious objections to, refused.

David Mullins and Charlie Criag

Mullins and Craig filed discrimination charges with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission which agreed with the couple - saying that Philips violated the Colorado anti-discrimination law barring businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation. The Colorado Court of Appeals also sided with the couple.

Jack Phillips at Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. Photograph: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

And then the lawsuit began... (via Fox News)

December 2013

Judge Robert Spencer of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts decided — in line with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) — that the bakeshop had violated a Colorado law which prohibits businesses from refusing service due to a person’s sexual orientation.

Masterpiece Cakeshop appealed the decision.

May 2014

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission decided at a public hearing that Masterpiece had violated Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act, or CADA.

Phillips was ordered to change its company policies as well as offer “comprehensive staff training” to employees. The cake shop was also required to provide quarterly reports about how it handled prospective customers.

August 2015

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that Phillips cannot cite his religious beliefs in his refusal to provide a service to same-sex couples.

With the ruling, Phillips could face a penalty if he continues to deny wedding cakes to same-sex couples.

April 2016

The Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal from Phillips.

July 2016

On behalf of Phillips, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal nonprofit, petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case.

“We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure that government understands that its duty is to protect the people’s freedom to follow their beliefs personally and professionally, not force them to violate those beliefs as the price of earning a living,” ADF senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco said in a statement at the time.

June 2017

The Supreme Court agreed to consider the case during its next term, which began in the fall.

As The Hill reports, Kennedy, who wrote the decision, said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution when it forced Jack Phillips to make a cake for a same-sex wedding he morally opposed under the state's public accommodations law.

"The laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect gay persons and gay couples in the exercise of their civil rights, but religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views in some instances protected forms of expression," the court said. 

The court did not however issue a definitive ruling on circumstances where people can seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws for religious reasons, which Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion "must await further elaboration."

Kennedy also wrote that that the case presents “difficult questions as to the proper reconciliation of at least two principles. 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”.

The second,” Kennedy writes, “is the right of all persons to exercise fundamental freedoms under the first amendment.

“Whatever the confluence of speech and free exercise principles might be in some cases, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s consideration of this case was inconsistent with the state’s obligation of religious neutrality. The reason and motive for the baker’s refusal were based on his sincere religious beliefs and convictions.”

Full Decision below