In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Colorado Baker who refused to make a wedding cake due to his religious beliefs.
According to the ruling, the Supreme Court’s decision was due to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failure to “act neutrally toward Jack Phillips’s religious faith”. The Court goes on to explain, “the only reason the Colorado Civil Rights Commission seemed to supply for its discrimination was that it found Mr. Phillips’s religious beliefs were “offensive.”” “That kind of judgmental dismissal of sincerely held religious belief is, of course, antithetical to the First Amendment and cannot begin to satisfy strict scrutiny. The Constitution protects not just popular religious exercises from the condemnation of civil authorities. It protects them all.”
The two dissenting votes came from Justice Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissent saying – “while there is much in the Court’s opinion with which I agree. “[I]t is a general rule that [religious and philosophical] objections do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.” Ante, at 9. “Colorado law can protect gay persons, just as it can protect other classes of individuals, in acquiring whatever products and services they choose on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public.” Ante, at 10. “[P]urveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons [may not] put up signs saying ‘no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages.’ ” Ante, at 12. Gay persons may be spared from “indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.””
This case began in 2012 when Charlie and David who’d been together in Denver for some time decided to marry. Their marriage was not the norm as Charlie and David were a same-sex couple. This was several years before the Supreme Court would rule that the Constitution allowed for same-sex couples to wed (see Obergefell v. Hodges to read more on this landmark case).
In 2012 Masterpiece Cakeshop was the top of the list for those in the market for a wedding cake. The owner started his shop nearly 20 years prior with a goal to pursue art that would be reflected in each of his cakes. The Cakeshop owner was also a very religious man who believed that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Then in 2012, these two groups met in Colorado. Their meeting would set off a chain reaction putting a business owner against the same-sex couple. The owner of the cakeshop refused to make a wedding cake for a ceremony that opposed his beliefs. The owner would sell them anything except a wedding cake. And so this seemingly minor disagreement or debate over wedding cake would last years. This debate would eventually lead the groups to the Supreme Court where their argument would be heard by the nine Justices’.
During the original argument, the Supreme Court got into the mix (see Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission) of these two opposing forces. Oral arguments were heard in a case that would decide if the Constitution protects business owners with religious objections from providing services to those who do not share their belief.
Some spectators believe Religous Liberty should allow owners to chose their customers and not force those to compromise their beliefs, while others feel this would essentially be a license to discriminate.
The battle lines were set putting First Amendment rights (free speech and exercise of religion) against equality state laws meant to protect Civil Rights. The Supreme Court sided more against the Civil Rights Commission than with the Colorado baker. This leaves some wondering what exactly does this mean going forward.
The decision was in the hands of the Supreme Court. Many felt the debate would hinge on one vote leading to a 5-4 ruling. In recent Supreme Court Cases the court had voted in favor of both same-sex decisions and religious liberty cases. As we now know the Justices ruled heavily on the side of the Colorado baker in a 7-2 ruling.
The Supreme Court made its decision on the case essentially putting the icing on an argument that began years ago.