The Supreme Court shocked and disappointed the LGBTQ community when it ruled in favor of the Lakewood bakeshop in the Masterpiece Cake Case, rather than the couple suing the bakers.
The ruling today claims that the shop was within their rights to religious freedom in denying the couple a same-sex wedding cake, and did not break any anti-discrimination laws. However, the court is not using this case as precedent to decide whether a business can use religious freedom as an excuse to deny service to LGBTQ people.
“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue respect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market,” Kennedy said.
The court ruled by a 7-2 vote that the baker did not get a fair hearing on his complaint because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated a hostility to religion in its treatment of his case. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
Writing for the case, Justice Anthony Kennedy said while it is unexceptional that Colorado law “can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions that are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”
He said that in this case the Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, understandably had difficulty in knowing where to draw the line because the state law at the time afforded store keepers some latitude to decline creating specific messages they considered offensive. Kennedy pointed to the Colorado commission’s decision allowing a different baker to refuse to put an anti-gay message on a cake.
This ruling overturns the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s ruling against Masterpiece, claiming that it showed an anti-religious bias.
“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,” claimed Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the couple that tried to get the cake at Masterpiece, are at the center of that lawsuit. Craig recently testified to Colorado’s House Judiciary Committee before they voted on a ‘religious freedom’ bill. He said this,
“It doesn’t matter if it’s just a cake. To be turned away from anyone is humiliating. This measure isn’t freedom of religion, but rather freedom from LGBT people.”
The two are also acting as grand marshals of this year’s Denver PrideFest.
While the justices claim that this ruling will not decide future cases, it still sets a precedent for legalized discrimination that could prove extremely harmful to the LGBTQ community and human rights. The implication here is that denying service to a group of people, as long as it is justified as a religious bias against those people, will be allowed in the United States.