Supreme Court: Colorodo shop can’t be forced to serve gay couple, but ruling may not apply to similar cases
On Monday, June 4th the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of a Colorado baker, Jack Phillips—owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop—who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple in a landmark case. The case received nationwide coverage and fiery responses from both LGBT advocacy groups and Republican senators.
In 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a cake for their wedding. Jack Phillips, the owner of the shop, declined their request, citing that his religious beliefs conflicted with their request. Phillips says he runs his business in accordance with his Christian conservative beliefs. In addition to not selling cakes to gay couples, he does not make cakes with alcohol and closes his shop on Sunday and Halloween.
Craig and Mullins filed a complaint with the Colorado courts. The courts ruled in favor of the couple and cited that the state’s accommodation law prohibits the refusal to deny services to particular members of the public.
But in the 7-2 Supreme Court decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution when they ordered Phillips to make a cake for a same-sex couple.
The court states, “The laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must protect gay persons and gay couples in the exercise of their civil rights, but religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views in some instances protected forms of expression.”
However, the narrow decision of the SCOTUS did not address the constitutionality of the underlying issue. Instead, it refers to the “narrow” unique circumstances of this specific case. For example, the Supreme Court’s decision did not give any guidance for future cases for business owners or persons providing particular services who may cite religious freedom to deny services for same-sex couples.
The ACLU, who is representing David Mullins and Charlie Craig, said in a statement Monday, “The Supreme Court today reaffirmed the core principle that businesses open to the public must be open to all… The court did not accept arguments that would have turned back the clock on equality by making our basic civil rights protections unenforceable, but reversed this case based on concerns specific to the facts here.”
Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, shares, “The court reversed the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on concerns unique to the case but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people.”