The US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. However, the 7-2 decision sets no precedent, instead the majority said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed a “hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs” of baker Jack Phillips when it said he violated the couple’s rights.
“Today’s decision is remarkably narrow, and leaves for another day virtually all of the major constitutional questions that this case presented,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “It’s hard to see the decision setting a precedent.”
Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cake in Lakewood, Colo., refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, citing his Christian views that same-sex marriages are sinful. The two men filed a complaint with the state’s civil rights commission based on Colorado’s anti-discrimination law. Like most states, Colorado prohibits business establishments from discriminating on the basis of religion, race, sexual orientation and gender. The commission ruled in favor of Craig and Mullins. Phillips appealed to the state Supreme Court, which upheld the commission. He tehn too his case to the US Supreme Court.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said comments made by members of the commission were “inappropriate for a commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.” The commission acted with “clear and impermissible hostility” toward Phillips’ religious beliefs.
While the decision turned on this narrow issue, Kennedy went to some lengths in the decision to emphasize that in another situation, the outcome could be different.
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“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.”
In another affirmation of gay rights protection, Kennedy wrote, “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.”
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.