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Supreme Court sides with baker who refused to make cake for a gay couple

It's a narrow ruling that leaves open the possibility of different decisions in similar cases

by Taylor Dolven and Christianna Silva
Jun 4 2018, 1:00pm

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Monday in favor of the baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, a ruling touted as a win by supporters of religious freedom and a loss by supporters of the LGBT community.

Jack Phillips, the owner of the Colorado-based Masterpiece Cakeshop, argued his cakes are art, and he shouldn’t be forced to make them for anyone he doesn’t want to — including a same-sex couple. But after Phillips refused to serve engaged couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig in 2012, they took him to court, claiming they were discriminated against because of their sexuality. During the closely watched case, the couple argued that Colorado’s anti-discrimination law protects them from such discrimination.

But in a narrow ruling that leaves open different decisions in similar cases, the court this time ruled in favor of Phillips, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority that Colorado had treated the baker unfairly with regards to his freedom of religion and speech. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the only dissenters.

“The Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case violated the State’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint,” Kennedy wrote, adding that “the record here demonstrates that the Commission’s consideration of Phillips’ case was neither tolerant nor respectful of Phillips’ religious beliefs.”

LGBT people, he noted, should be protected by the Constitution in some cases but not in a way that infringes upon the religious rights of others.

“Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,” Kennedy wrote. “For that reason the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights. The exercise of their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect by the courts. At the same time, the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”

But this isn’t a complete loss for the LGBT community, because the ruling is pretty narrow. It points out that Colorado didn’t treat Phillips fairly, but it leaves the door open for other similar cases to be decided differently as long as the religious person is treated fairly.

Cover image: Mary Torres of Falls Church, Va., holds a rolling pin up in support of cake artist Jack Phillips outside of the Supreme Court with her daughter Maria Torres, right, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, during arguments the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)