11:16, June 04 244 0 abajournal.com

2018-06-04 11:16:06
Supreme Court rules for Christian baker who refused cake for gay wedding, cites agency hostility

Developing: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Monday that Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission violated the free exercise rights of a Christian baker by showing hostility to his explained religious reasons for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissent, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Initial coverage said the opinion was narrow because it stressed the commission’s treatment of the baker, Jack Phillips, who owned Masterpiece Cakeshop.

Kennedy said the case presents difficult 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.

“Whatever the confluence of speech and free exercise principles might be in some cases,” Kennedy wrote, “the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s consideration of this case was inconsistent with the state’s obligation of religious neutrality.”

The gay couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, had filed a discrimination complaint in 2012 shortly after Phillips said his religious beliefs prevented him from making cakes for gay weddings. They cited Colorado law prohibiting discrimination in places of public accommodation, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. At the time, Colorado did not recognize the validity of gay marriages, however, and the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet found a constitutional right for gays to marry.

The commission issued an order requiring Phillips to cease and desist discriminating against same-sex couples, and the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed. But the commission violated Phillips’ rights, Kennedy said, because its “treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.”