Supreme Court rules for Colorado baker who refused to make same-sex couple’s wedding cake

Baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, manages his shop after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that he could refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs did not violate Colorado's anti-discrimination law, June 4, 2018, Lakewood, Colo. | Associated Press photo by David Zalubowski, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – While ruling in favor of a Colorado baker who cited his religious beliefs in refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, the U.S. Supreme Court nonetheless left the question of whether a business can refuse service to gay and lesbian individuals on religious grounds to be resolved another day.

The court on Monday overturned a ruling by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission against baker Jack Philip of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver. In the 7-2 decision, the majority found that the commission violated Philips’ First Amendment rights by being hostile to his religious beliefs.

The larger question of whether a same-sex couple can be denied service based on a business owner’s “sincere religious beliefs” will yet be heard by the courts.

An appeal in a similar case involving a Washington state florist who objected to serving a same-sex couple’s wedding is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

Those disputes, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the court’s majority opinion, “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.”

The SCOTUS blog, a website that follows and analyzes Supreme Court decisions, wrote over Twitter that Monday’s decision “is a win for gay rights groups that want to bar discrimination against same-sex couples, so long as the law is applied neutrally and without hostility to religion.”

The same-sex couple at the heart of the case, Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, complained to the Colorado commission in 2012 after they visited Phillips’ cake shop and the baker quickly told them he would not create a cake for their wedding celebration.

We brought this case because no one should have to face the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation of being told ‘we don’t serve your kind here’ that we faced, and we will continue fighting until no one does,” Craig and Mullins said in a statement released through the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU has represented the couple through the legal fight.

Colorado law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the commission concluded that Phillips’ refusal violated the law, despite his argument that he is opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Colorado state courts upheld the determination.

Charlie Craig, left, and David Mullins touch foreheads after leaving the U.S. Supreme Court. The court on Monday set aside a Colorado court ruling against a baker who wouldn’t make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, Washington, D.C., Dec. 5, 2017 | Associated Press file photo by Jacquelyn Martin, St. George News

But when the justices heard arguments in December, Kennedy was plainly bothered by comments by a commission member that the justice said disparaged religion. The commissioner seemed “neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs,” Kennedy said in December.

That same sentiment suffused his opinion on Monday. “The commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion,” he wrote.

Liberal justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined the conservative justices in the outcome. Kagan wrote separately to emphasize the limited ruling.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

In a statement issued after the ruling Monday, Phillips’ Supreme Court lawyer praised the decision.

Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society, yet the state of Colorado was openly antagonistic toward Jack’s religious beliefs about marriage. The court was right to condemn that,” said Kristen Waggoner, the Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel who argued Phillips’ case.

Waggoner said Phillips is willing to sell ready-made products to anyone who enters his store but “he simply declines to express messages or celebrate events that violate his deeply held beliefs.”

Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said the court reversed the commission’s ruling based on elements unique to the case, “but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people.”

The court case has been watched closely by various groups and religious organizations. In September, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Utah GOP state senators filed an amicus, or “friend of the court” brief, supporting Phillips.

Naomi Washington Leapheart, center, the faith work director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, addresses activists in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, D.C., June 4, 2018 | Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite, St. George News

Read more: LDS Church, state GOP senators support Colorado baker’s choice not to serve same-sex couple

“Amici are religious organizations who accept that same-sex civil marriage is the law of the land. But some deeply religious Americans, including some of amici’s members, cannot in good conscience assist with same-sex weddings,” the brief states. “Now that the court has protected the liberty of same-sex couples, it is equally important to protect the religious liberty of these conscientious objectors.”

Utah responses to Monday’s ruling

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:

“I applaud today’s decision. Hostility toward religion has no place in government. At the same time, religious freedom means much more than freedom from government hostility. Courts must protect the ability of believers to freely live their faith and to express their religious beliefs openly and honestly.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah:

“The Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s hostility toward the religious beliefs of Mr. Phillips was incompatible with the First Amendment. Today’s decision is a win for our nation’s founding principle that our laws must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

Equality Utah:

“There are upsides to the Masterpiece ruling; SCOTUS reaffirmed core principles of our civil rights laws. This ruling was unique to the (Colorado) case and does NOT roll back the clock on LGBTQ equality. Our opportunity now is to work with the (Utah Legislature) to pass a public accommodations law in 2019.”

In response to the court’s ruling, Executive Director Troy Williams said: “For more than fifty years Americans have agreed that a person should not be fired, evicted or denied goods and services because of who they are. Today’s decision affirms these principles in that LGBTQ couples are to be afforded dignity and worth in society and in the law.”

The Sutherland Institute:

“Today’s decision from the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission emphasizes an important principle of nondiscrimination laws: equal application of the law,” said Bill Duncan, director with the Sutherland Institute. “Combined with past Court decisions upholding the dignity of those in the LGBT community, today’s ruling reminds us that equality applies to all Americans, not just the favored few, and we must protect those with firmly held religious beliefs, members of the LGBTQ community, and all citizens alike.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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31 Comments

  • Utahguns June 4, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    It would have been so much simpler for Craig and Mullins to just find another bakery, instead of forcing their philosophies on the baker.
    But that’s what the militant liberal movement does.

    • bikeandfish June 4, 2018 at 9:08 pm

      Would have been alot easier for black Americans to just find cafes that served them instead of doing sitins and other non-violent protests as well. Civil rights aren’t maintained through making the easy, expedient choice.

      • statusquo June 5, 2018 at 6:20 am

        Would be easier to tell the two men he was too busy to bake them a cake – so sorry.

    • No Filter June 5, 2018 at 8:40 am

      They could have found another bakery, but how would you feel if a gun shop owner wouldn’t sell you a gun because you were not a Mormon. Sure you could go to another gun shop, but maybe this gun shop really had the gun you wanted. Maybe there wasn’t any other gun shops close to you. You would complain that it was against your rights to refuse to serve you, and it is, based on federal law. The only difference in this case is that Colorado has a law protecting discrimination against sexual orientation and federal law does not (funny how you conservatives preach states rights until it doesn’t meet your beliefs). Colorado feels that this is as important as race, age, and religion etc. This decision was made correctly based on law, but the ethical thing to do would have been to vote against the cake shop owner. I am sure the law will change one day and we can look at this case as an example of why we changed it. The other thing I want to address is that they were not forcing their philosophies on the baker, they just wanted a cake. I am sure they didn’t go into the shop and say we want a cake and we want you to be gay! Your hate towards LGBT, Hispanic immigrants, and pretty much anybody that is not a white christian disgust me and I hope someday you finally can make peace with the fact that we are all human and deserve to be treated equally.

      • RadRabbit June 5, 2018 at 1:04 pm

        Capitalism is the greatest force for equality, if someone wont sell you a product another person will. I however don’t feel its the governments place to tell a private business that they need to sell or not sell in the case of the Jim Crow laws.

      • mesaman June 5, 2018 at 9:26 pm

        People who write pamphlet sized comments disgust me and I hope someday you can make peace with the fact that we are born equal and go our separate ways to be different.

        • No Filter June 6, 2018 at 8:02 am

          My comments disgust you, yet you still read them and comment on them? Sounds like the problem is more you than my pamphlet.

  • Utahguns June 4, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    Equality Utah says: “Our opportunity now is to work with the (Utah Legislature) to pass a public accommodations law in 2019.”
    What the hell will that mean?
    Probable translation: they will try to neuter this state just like the rainbow snowflakes did to California.

    • No Filter June 6, 2018 at 8:04 am

      Neutering works for stray animals, lets hope it works to stop people like you from breeding as well.

      • Utahguns June 8, 2018 at 8:32 am

        You just a disgusting little twerp.
        Somebody was potty trained with a switch.

  • Craig June 4, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    Two Justices voted against this. They should be removed from the court. They voted what they wanted, not what the Constitution says.

    Utah cannot enact a law as an end run around this because they cannot subvert the Constitution either.

    • bikeandfish June 4, 2018 at 9:17 pm

      SCOTUS justices serve for life and aren’t vulnerable to fascist dismals like you advocate.

      There are always minority votes as the Constitution isn’t a clear cut document. It appears this decision was based on procedure by the CO commission. I can respect that outcome even if I believe the baker should not be able to discriminate against customers. Its similar to recognizing the proper decision for the Bundy’s despite their criminal behavior.

      Justice is complicated and doesn’t align cleanly along ideological boundaries. And we don’t get to fire judges for political reasons. Welcome to a Constitutional Republic.

  • RadRabbit June 4, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Find another baker if he won’t make you a cake its that simple.

  • ladybugavenger June 4, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    Good news! find another baker

    • Utahguns June 4, 2018 at 7:42 pm

      I think Hostess “Twinkies” with some candles would have sufficed just fine.

      • ladybugavenger June 6, 2018 at 7:29 pm

        Oh my goodness 😁

    • Striker4 June 5, 2018 at 12:03 pm

      good news make your own cake

  • commonsense June 4, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Did Ruth Ginsberg stay awake during the proceedings? I hope Trump can replace the extreme liberals on the court. The left thinks the Constitution is inconvenient and the courts can create law to suit their global socialist agenda.

    Capitalism requires freedom to choose customers. It’s not like that baker was the only game in town. Consumers boycott businesses because of religion, sexual orientation and politics. Is that fair? Political correctness seems like a one way street. Glad we are moving to common sense.

  • Kilroywashere June 4, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    I guess if someone doesn’t want to bake you a cake nowadays, you make a federal case out of it. The LGBT community has a right to push their agenda, but wedding cake bakers are not the best way to go. On the baker’s side of the equation, a cake sale is a cake sale, but I do understand the delivery issue might be awkward, especially if you are homophobic. You might drop the cake or something. From a religious standpoint, if your belief system is threatened, or you are violating the tenets of your faith, OK.

    • bikeandfish June 4, 2018 at 10:20 pm

      Ironically, it was the baker who made a federal case out of it. Even more ironic is he won. We have the judicial system for a reason, even when we disagree with one side.

      • mesaman June 5, 2018 at 9:29 pm

        Ironically you are incorrect. “We (the two males) brought this case because nobody should have to face the . . . . .”.

        • bikeandfish June 5, 2018 at 10:47 pm

          You lack fundamental understanding of how the SCOTUS works. The baker lost the ca se at the State level, originally at the commission level and then at the state appeals level, ie the couple won. They would have no need or ability to bring it the SCOTUS as their legal arguments were found valid up until that point. It was the baker who forwarded the case to SCOTUS in an attempt to reverse the lower court rulings.

          Wikipedia:

          “Masterpiece Cakeshop petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari (review), under the case name Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, of the following question:[11]

          Whether applying Colorado’s public accommodations law to compel Phillips to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the Free Speech or Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.[9]”

          Please educate yourself more accurately before cherry picking quotes out of context and in a form completely inconsistent with basic American civics,

  • utahdiablo June 4, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    “We reserve the right to refuse service” ….or go to Costco, they’ll do anything for a Buck.

  • PlanetU June 4, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    The baker certainly has a right to say no. It’s HIS business. If some are against accepting conservative views why must others accept liberal views (progressive?) No shirts, no shoes, no service!

  • PatriotLiberal June 4, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    I agree with the majority here. Mr. Philips has the right to do what he chooses with his business.
    Personally I think his decision to refuse service in this case was just plain stupid. He lost hundreds of dollars and, later, half his business because he didn’t want to stick a couple of grooms on top of a cake. Stupid.

  • Lee Saunders June 5, 2018 at 1:02 am

    Wow, I wish I could decide what I will do or not do based entirely upon my religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs. Maybe I’ll just stop paying taxes since it’s against my religious beliefs. I know that the law says I have to pay my taxes, but I also thought it was illegal to discriminate in this country. I guess not.

  • No Filter June 5, 2018 at 6:07 am

    Under federal anti-discrimination laws, businesses can refuse service to any person for any reason, unless the business is discriminating against a protected class.

    At the national level, protected classes include:

    Race or color
    National origin or citizenship status
    Religion or creed
    Sex
    Age
    Disability, pregnancy, or genetic information
    Veteran status
    Colorado and other states have sexual orientation as a protected class. So the initial court finding was correct, but the problem was the federal court doesn’t see sexual orientation as a protected status. Although this final outcome is a sad one, it was perfectly legal. We just need to push harder to make SI a protected status at a federal level. The conservative Supreme Court judges have to die of old age eventually and then we can finally fix this unfair issue by putting in judges who aren’t afraid of gay people.

    • bikeandfish June 5, 2018 at 9:37 am

      Actually, the SCOTUS ruling recognized LGBTQi issues in civil rights without suborfinating state law to federal definitions. This was a majority opinion based on extremely “narrow” and nuanced facets of the specific case. Which means they are waiting for more judicial rulings at lower levels before adjudicating the broader issue at the SCOTUS level. In short, he won because of context of time (2012 was a different era legally) and because the CO commission’s documented discrimination in this specific case.

      But make no mistake, the majority argument, ie many conservative judges included, defends civil protections for LGBTQi citizens:

      “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.”

      Its difficult to see but this mostly seems to be about procedural misteps at lower levels while openly extending basic dignities to fellow citizens.

  • No Filter June 5, 2018 at 6:07 am

    Under federal anti-discrimination laws, businesses can refuse service to any person for any reason, unless the business is discriminating against a protected class.
    At the national level, protected classes include:
    Race or color
    National origin or citizenship status
    Religion or creed
    Sex
    Age
    Disability, pregnancy, or genetic information
    Veteran status
    Colorado and other states have sexual orientation as a protected class. So the initial court finding was correct, but the problem was the federal court doesn’t see sexual orientation as a protected status. Although this final outcome is a sad one, it was perfectly legal. We just need to push harder to make SI a protected status at a federal level. The conservative Supreme Court judges have to die of old age eventually and then we can finally fix this unfair issue by putting in judges who aren’t afraid of gay people.

  • commonsense June 5, 2018 at 10:13 am

    The deserting votes came from Ruth Bader Ginsberg, liberal, 85 year old who naps through sessions and requires a gaurdian and Elena Sotomayor, age 63, Obama appointee. Ginsberg should remove herself ASAP and Kennedy wants to retire so Trump can name his successor.

    • RadRabbit June 5, 2018 at 4:32 pm

      Would be great to see two new Trump appointees to the Supreme Court.

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