Cutting the cake with your significant other is a wedding rite of passage that every couple should be able to partake in, regardless of their sexual orientation. However, a 7–2 Supreme Court ruling made earlier today— in favor of a baker who denied a gay couple's request for a cake—could potentially have negative future implications for other LGBTQ couples.
The backstory behind the notorious Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case case dates to 2012, when Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, refused to make a cake for gay couple Charles Craig and David Mullins due to his Christian beliefs. Phillips offered to sell the couple any other confection, but denied them a custom wedding cake because he believes marriage should solely be between a man and a woman. Following the discrimination, Craig and Mullins turned to the Civil Rights Commission in Colorado, where they filed a complaint against Phillips. "Businesses should not be allowed to violate the law and discriminate against us because of who we are and who we love," Mullins told The New York Times.
Public accommodations laws in Colorado forbid unequal treatment of customers based on "disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry," and the Civil Rights Commission ultimately ruled in favor of Craig and Mullins. However, feeling that the decision violated his right to freedom of speech, Phillips took the case to the Supreme Court. The Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented Phillips, argued that a wedding cake, "as the iconic centerpiece of the marriage celebration, announces through Phillips's voice that a marriage has occurred and should be celebrated. The government can no more force Phillips to speak those messages with his lips than to express them through his art."
The Justice Department took the baker's side last September, stating in a brief written by Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall that, "Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights."
Fast forward eight months and the Supreme Court officially ruled in favor of the Colorado-based baker Monday, June 4 on the grounds that the Civil Rights Commission wasn't tolerant enough of Phillips's religious beliefs. "The Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s consideration of this case was inconsistent with the state’s obligation of religious neutrality," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote of the ruling. "The reason and motive for the baker’s refusal were based on his sincere religious beliefs and convictions."
Of the nine Supreme Court justices who oversaw this case, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor represented the two dissenting opinions. "Phillips declined to make a cake he found offensive where the offensiveness of the product was determined solely by the identity of the customer requesting it,” Ginsburg wrote. “I see no reason why the comments of one or two Commissioners should be taken to overcome Phillips’ refusal to sell a wedding cake."
Although the decision comes as a setback for the LGBTQ community, Craig and Mullins are still as determined as ever to reach total equality. "Today’s decision means our fight against discrimination and unfair treatment will continue," said the couple, according to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union. "We have always believed that in America, you should not be turned away from a business open to the public because of who you are. 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."