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Baker Who Refused to Make Cake for Gay Wedding Headed to Supreme Court

The nation’s highest court will be making a decision that will reach far beyond one Colorado cake shop.
Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images.

The US Supreme Court will soon decide if a Colorado bakery opposed to same-sex marriage had the right to refuse baking a cake for a soon-to-be-wed gay couple.

In 2012, Massachusetts couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig asked Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado to make them a cake for their wedding. Owner and "cake artist" Jack Phillips refused, citing his religious opposition to same-sex marriage


Mullins and Craig brought a complaint before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, saying that Phillips was in violation of the state's anti-discrimination law. Philips argued that making such a cake would have conveyed that he was "celebrating" a union that he opposed on religious grounds, and thus in violation of his First Amendment right to free expression and religious freedom.

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The Civil Rights Commission ultimately sided with Mullins and Craig, as did a Colorado appeals court, who found that, "the act of designing and selling a wedding cake to all customers free of discrimination does not convey a celebratory message about same-sex weddings likely to be understood by those who view it."

Undeterred, Phillips pushed through to the Supreme Court, insisting in his court brief that the First Amendment overrides the state law and protects his right "to use his artistic talents to promote only messages that align with his religious beliefs."

Phillips also mentioned in his written argument that his religious views means that he "declines lucrative business" by not creating cakes that "contain alcohol or cakes celebrating Halloween and other messages his faith prohibits," but that "he would be happy to make and sell them any other baked goods."

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In their brief, Mullins and Craig countered by arguing that refusing them a wedding cake but no other baked good was still discrimination based on their sexual orientation. "It is no answer to say that Mullins and Craig could shop somewhere else for their wedding cake, just as it was no answer in 1966 to say that African-American customers could eat at another restaurant."

Now, the country's highest court has announced that it will be hearing the case and is slated to make a decision that will reach far beyond Philips' shop. In the past few years, a number of other bakeries, cake shops, and even pizza shops have found themselves on the front lines of this cultural and constitutional debate surrounding same-sex marriage after refusing service to gay couples.

No date has been set yet for oral arguments, but it's worth noting that today's announcement coincided with the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which found that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by the Fourteenth Amendment, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.