[guest post by Dana]
Not on today’s order list, but a case that has drawn a lot of attention from all sides is Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This case involves a Colorado bakery owner and cake artist whose religious beliefs precluded him from providing a custom wedding cake for the same-sex marriage of David Mullins and Charlie Craig. Today the court agreed to hear an appeal from the baker:
The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear an appeal from a Colorado baker with religious objections to same-sex marriage who had lost a discrimination case for refusing to create a cake to celebrate such a union.
The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, No. 16-111, started in 2012, when the baker, Jack Phillips, an owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., refused to create a cake for the wedding reception of David Mullins and Charlie Craig, who were planning to marry in Massachusetts. The couple filed discrimination charges, and they won before a civil rights commission and in the courts.
Mr. Phillips, who calls himself a cake artist, argued that two parts of the First Amendment — its protections for free expression and religious freedom — overrode a Colorado anti-discrimination law and allowed him to refuse to create a custom wedding cake.
In 2015, a Colorado appeals court ruled against Mr. Phillips. “Masterpiece does not convey a message supporting same-sex marriages merely by abiding by the law and serving its customers equally,” the court said.
In a Supreme Court brief, Mr. Phillips’s lawyers said “ He is happy to create other items for gay and lesbian clients.” But his faith requires him, they said, “to use his artistic talents to promote only messages that align with his religious beliefs.”
“Thus,” the brief said, “he declines lucrative business by not creating goods that contain alcohol or cakes celebrating Halloween and other messages his faith prohibits, such as racism, atheism, and any marriage not between one man and one woman.”
The brief said Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig could have bought a cake from another baker and in fact “easily obtained a free wedding cake with a rainbow design from another bakery.”
“Regardless of your viewpoint about same-sex marriage, shouldn’t we all agree that the government shouldn’t force us to speak or act in a way that violates our deepest convictions?” Phillips queried in his prepared statement. “Like the one in Colorado will result in kind-hearted Americans being dragged before state commissions and courts, and punished by the government for peacefully seeking to live and work consistent with their beliefs about marriage? The couple who came to my shop that day 5 years ago are free to hold their beliefs about marriage, and all I ask is that I be allowed the equal opportunity to keep mine.”
Lawyers Kristen Waggoner and Michael Farris also commented:
“It’s never been about Jack’s willingness to sell products or services to people based on who they are,” he said. “If an LGBT person came to his cake shop wanting to buy a pre-existing cake, he’d be happy to for any purpose.”
But both Farris and Waggoner said that requiring him to write messages that go against his religious beliefs, including one promoting same-sex marriage, is where he draws the line.
The lawyers for the couple involved, responded:
“[I]t is no answer to say that Mullins and Craig could shop somewhere else for their wedding cake, just as it was no answer in 1966 to say that African-American customers could eat at another restaurant.”
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)