The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012.
The 7-2 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission could be a landmark ruling for freedom of religion and conscience cases.
The majority opinion was delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a separate opinion concurring in part, and concurring in the judgment.
The Masterpiece Cakeshop case dates back to July 2012, when owner Jack Phillips was asked by two men to bake a cake for their same-sex wedding ceremony.
He explained to the couple that he could not cater to same-sex weddings – to do so would have been a violation of his Christian beliefs. He said he has also declined to make a number of other types of cakes, including cakes for Halloween, bachelor parties, divorce, cakes with alcohol in the ingredients, and cakes with atheist messages.
The couple then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for discrimination.
The commission ordered Phillips to serve same-sex weddings and to undergo anti-discrimination training. In a hearing in 2014, the civil rights commissioner Diann Rice compared his declining to serve same-sex weddings to justifications for the Holocaust and slavery.
Alliance Defending Freedom took up Phillips’ case in court. He lost before an administrative judge in 2013, who ruled that the state could determine when his rights to free speech unlawfully infringed upon others’ rights.
Phillips then appealed his case to the state’s human rights commission, which ruled against him. He appealed again to the state’s court of appeals, which also ruled against him. The Colorado Supreme Court did not take up Phillips’ case.
The case was appealed to the Supreme Court. It was re-listed repeatedly throughout the winter and spring of 2017, before the Court decided to take the case.
Throughout the ordeal, Phillips said, he has paid a heavy price for his stand, losing 40 percent of his family’s income and more than half his employees.
The ruling is expected to have far-reaching results, particularly in determining the extent of religious liberty protections following the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Florists, photographers and other wedding vendors have also faced lawsuits alleging discrimination for declining same-sex ceremonies.
“There is far more at stake in this case than simply whether Jack Phillips must bake a cake,” the US bishops’ conference and other Catholic groups had stated in an amicus brief. “It is about the freedom to live according to one’s religious beliefs in daily life and, in so doing, advance the common good.”
Full story at Catholic News Agency.