Supreme Court issues Colorado baker in gay wedding cake case


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Washington
CNN

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake to celebrate the marriage of a same-sex couple because of a religious objection.

The decision was 7-2.

The court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown hostility towards the baker because of his religious beliefs. The ruling is a victory for baker Jack Phillips, who has cited his beliefs as a Christian but leaves broader constitutional questions over religious freedom unresolved.

“Today’s ruling is remarkably narrow and leaves virtually all of the major constitutional questions that this case has presented for another day,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the Law School of the University of Texas. “It’s hard to see the decision setting a precedent. ”

The ruling, written by Judge Anthony Kennedy, found members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed animosity towards Phillips especially when they suggested his religious freedom claims were made to justify discrimination .

The case was one of the mandate’s most anticipated rulings and was seen by some as a follow-up to the court ruling three years ago to pave the way for same-sex marriage across the country. This review, also written by Kennedy, expressed respect for those with religious objections to same-sex marriage.

“Our society has come to recognize that homosexuals and same-sex couples cannot be treated as socially excluded or inferior in dignity and worth,” he wrote on Monday.

Alliance Defending Freedom senior lawyer Kristen Wagoner, who represented Phillips, praised the decision.

“Jack serves all the customers; he simply refuses to express messages or celebrate events that violate his deeply held beliefs, ”Wagoner said in a statement. “Creative professionals who serve everyone should be free to create art that conforms to their beliefs without the threat of government sanctions. ”

She further added that the case “will affect a number of cases for years in the free exercise jurisprudence. This is how court decisions work.

Wagoner said Phillips was “relieved” by the court’s decision and would work with the Defending Freedom Alliance to determine when to move forward to continue baking wedding cakes.

“It was a six year long battle where his family business, his income, was at stake. He also obviously handles a lot of calls himself and makes sure his family is protected, to be frank.” , Wagoner said.

Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, noted the narrowness of the opinion.

“The court overturned Masterpiece Cakeshop’s decision based on case-specific concerns, but reaffirmed its long-standing rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people. “Melling said in a statement.

Because Justice Clarence Thomas partially agreed, the court’s judgment on the case was 7-2, but the opinion on justification was 6-2.

Kennedy wrote that there is room for religious tolerance, specifically noting how the Colorado commission has treated Phillips by downplaying his concerns about religious freedom.

At the same time, religious and philosophical objections to same-sex marriage are protected opinions and, in some cases, protected forms of expression, “Kennedy wrote, adding that” the neutral consideration to which Phillips was entitled has been compromised here”.

“The committee’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws were applied in a religiously neutral manner,” Kennedy said, adding that the matter was close.

“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must wait to be further worked out by the courts, all in the context of the recognition that such disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs and without subjecting homosexuals to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market, ”states the opinion.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, argued that “when a couple contacts a bakery for a wedding cake, the product they are looking for is a cake celebrating their wedding. – not a cake celebrating heterosexual marriages or even -sexual marriages – and it was the service (the couple) that was turned down. ”

Phillips opened the bakery in 1993 knowing from the start that there would be certain cakes he would refuse to bake in order to respect his religious beliefs.

“I didn’t want to use my artistic talents to create something that went against my Christian faith,” he said in an interview with CNN last year, noting that he also refused to do cakes to celebrate Halloween.

In 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig asked Phillips to bake a cake to celebrate their planned wedding, which would be celebrated in another state. Phillips said he couldn’t create the product they were looking for without violating his faith.

“The Bible says, ‘In the beginning there was a man and a woman,’” said Phillips.

He proposed to make other baked goods for men. “At which point they both stormed out and left,” he said.

Mullins and Craig filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled in their favor, citing state anti-discrimination law. Phillips took his case to the Colorado Court of Appeals, arguing that forcing him to provide the couple with a wedding cake violated their constitutional right to free speech and the free exercise of their religion. The court ruled that the state’s anti-discrimination law was neutral and generally applicable and did not require Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop to “support or endorse a particular religious point of view.” It was simply prohibiting Phillips from discriminating against potential clients on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“This case is about more than us, and it’s not about cakes,” Mullins said in an interview last year. “It is about the right of homosexuals to receive equal service. ”

The Trump administration has sided with Phillips.

“A personalized wedding cake is no ordinary bakery product; its function is more communicative and artistic than utilitarian, ”argued Solicitor General Noel Francisco. “As a result, the government cannot enact content-based laws ordering a speaker to engage in protected expression: an artist cannot be forced to paint, a musician cannot be forced to perform, and a musician cannot be forced to perform. poet cannot be forced to write. ”

This story has been updated.

02:07 – Source: CNN

Judge Kennedy looks torn over the wedding cake case

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