What The Supreme Court's Decision On The Colorado Cake-Baker Case Really Means

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
Charlie Craig and David Mullins
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to provide a cake for a gay couple's wedding, arguing that doing so would go against his religious beliefs.
But while the court sided with baker Jack Phillips on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the ruling does not indicate people have a constitutional right to discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples.
What the court did instead in a 7-2 vote was issue what's being called "a narrow ruling," i.e. the justices tailored the decision to the case specifically instead of issuing a decision on the topic of religious liberty as many expected.
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The case dates back to 2012, when David Mullins and Charlie Craig went to Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a cake for their wedding reception. At the time, same-sex marriage was still illegal in Colorado and nationwide, so the couple was to get married in Massachusetts and then have a reception in Denver. (Same-sex marriage in the state became legal in 2014 and nationwide in 2015.)
But they were surprised to find that Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop, said he could offer them "birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies, and brownies," but couldn't prepare a cake for a same-sex wedding because it went against his religious beliefs.
Mullins and Craig filed a discrimination complaint and in 2014, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission decided that Phillips had broken state law. Phillips appealed the decision, but state courts upheld the ruling. According to the courts, Phillips violated Colorado's public accommodations law, which bans businesses from refusing service to customers from protected classes, including race and sexual orientation.
Last summer, the Supreme Court decided to take the case. According to the majority decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission didn't treat Phillips fairly while observing his case, instead demostrating hostility to his religious beliefs. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
The decision still didn't sit well with LGBTQ+ advocates and other legal organizations.
"The Supreme Court today reaffirmed the core principle that businesses open to the public must be open to all," the ACLU said in a statement, according to NBC News. "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."
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