Colorado baker who turned away gay couple wins Supreme Court battle

Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Colorado baker. The court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility toward the baker based on his religious beliefs


                            Colorado baker who turned away gay couple wins Supreme Court battle

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, stating that he did not violate the state’s anti-discrimination law. Philips had stated that he did not bake the cake for the same-sex couple because it went against his religious beliefs.

The justices, in a decision signed by Justice Anthony Kennedy, faulted the Colorado Civil Right Commission for violating the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution by making Phillips bake the cake even though he opposed doing so on religious grounds.

The court ruled that while the Colorado Civil Rights Commission determined that Masterpiece Cakeshop must serve clients regardless of sexual orientation, the panel showed "clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs" of the baker.

Conservative Christian baker Jack Phillips talks to journalists outside of the US Supreme Court building after the hearing (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Conservative Christian baker Jack Phillips talks to journalists outside of the US Supreme Court building after the hearing (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The commission, therefore, violated the baker Jack Phillips's religious rights under the US Constitution's First Amendment, the justices found. But they did not definitively rule on the issue of whether a business can decline to serve gays and lesbians based on religious views, meaning the broader contentious issue is likely to simmer.

The US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, and the state of Colorado has a series of anti-discrimination laws that protect gay people.

Phillips had argued that he refused to serve the couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, in 2012 because their planned marriage ran counter to his  Christian faith.

The Colorado commission's "hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment's guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in an 18-page majority opinion. "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 disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market."

Last December the high court heard impassioned arguments in the closely watched case pitting free speech, religion and artistic freedom against anti-discrimination laws.

David Mullins (L) and Charlie Craig wait to speak to journalists after the US Supreme Court hearing (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
David Mullins (L) and Charlie Craig wait to speak to journalists after the US Supreme Court hearing (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It has been the most significant case for gay rights since the high court approved same-sex marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union, which argued the case on behalf of Mullins and Craig, said Monday's ruling represented a victory for the core principle upholding fair business practices for all.

"The court reversed the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on concerns unique to the case, but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people," said ACLU deputy legal director Louise Melling.

(Inputs from AFP)