by WorldTribune Staff, June 4, 2018
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated a baker’s First Amendment rights when it ruled against him for his refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision on June 3.
Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion that the larger issue of whether a business can refuse service to LGBTQ people based on religious objections “must await further elaboration” in the courts.
Appeals in similar cases are pending, including one at the Supreme Court from a florist who didn’t want to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, The Associated Press reported.
The disputes, Kennedy wrote, “must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”
Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, the same-sex couple at the heart of the case involving baker Jack Phillips, complained to the Colorado commission in 2012 after they visited Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver and the baker quickly told them he would not create a cake for their wedding celebration, the AP report said.
Colorado law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the commission concluded that Phillips’ refusal violated the law, despite the baker’s argument that he is opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Colorado state courts upheld the determination.
Justice Kennedy, during hearings on the case in December, was plainly bothered by comments by a commission member that the justice said disparaged religion. The commissioner seemed “neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs,” Kennedy said at the time.
In his opinion on June 3, Kennedy wrote: “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.”
In a statement issued after the ruling, Phillips’ Supreme Court lawyer praised the decision.
“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. The court was right to condemn that,” said Kristen Waggoner, the Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel who argued Phillips’ case.
Waggoner said Phillips is willing to sell ready-made products to anyone who enters his store. But, “he simply declines to express messages or celebrate events that violate his deeply held beliefs.”
Gay rights proponents said the ruling will not affect other claims of discrimination by same-sex couples.
“Anti-LGBTQ extremists did not win the sweeping ‘license to discriminate’ they have been hoping for – and today’s ruling does not change our nation’s longstanding civil rights laws,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said.
Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said the decision “reaffirmed that the Constitution protects freedom of speech, including speech of a religious content, and the state cannot compel speech against the will of the individual.”