On Monday, the Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker who had refused to create a cake for a gay couple. In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case that saw LGTBQ rights chafe against claims of religious freedom, the court ruled that the state of Colorado violated the baker’s rights under the Free Exercise Clause.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the 7-2 majority opinion. In it, he argued that while “few persons who have seen a beautiful wedding cake might have thought of its creation as an exercise of protected speech,” that the cake was an example of such speech. Kennedy was joined in the majority by Justices Roberts, Breyer, Alito, Kagan, Gorsuch and Thomas. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented.
The origins of the case date to 2012, when the newly engaged couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop, owned by Jack Phillips. Phillips turned the couple down, saying that creating a cake for a same-sex wedding was a violation of his religious beliefs. In turn, Mullins and Craig filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The New York Times reports that the commission, as well as numerous appeals courts, sided with the couple.
The Supreme Court’s decision today was a reversal of previous courts but, as the ACLU noted in an explanatory thread on Twitter, “the Court did not rule that the Constitution gives a right to discriminate.” Rather the concerns of the court today were “based on concerns specific to the case.”
Kennedy pointed to the narrow scope of the ruling in the majority opinion, writing: “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.”