The Supreme Court on Monday narrowly
sided with a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding for a gay
In a 7-2 decision, the justices said
that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility toward
baker Jack Phillips' religious beliefs when it found that he had
violated the state's anti-discrimination law.
The commission found that Phillips, the
owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, had violated Colorado law when he
refused to bake a cake for Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig's 2012
Denver wedding reception. (At the time, Colorado did not issue
marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The men married in
The couple sued, saying that Phillips'
faith does not give him a right to discriminate, and a Colorado court
found that Phillips had discriminated against the men under Colorado
law. After the Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal,
Phillips turned to the Supreme Court, arguing that the First
Amendment protects his religious rights.
The high court concluded that Phillips'
religious rights under the First Amendment had been violated by the
commission. But the narrow ruling seems to only apply to Phillips.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who also wrote
Obergefell, the landmark 2015 ruling that struck down state
laws and constitutional amendments that excluded gay couples from
marriage, wrote Monday's decision.
The state commission's hostility toward
religion “was inconsistent with the First Amendment's guarantee
that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward
religion,” Kennedy wrote.
President Donald Trump's Department of
Justice had filed a brief in support of Phillips. Attorney General
Jeff Sessions cheered the ruling. “The First Amendment prohibits
governments from discriminating against citizens on the basis of
religious beliefs,” he said in a statement.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, said that the ruling's narrow
scope reaffirms “that LGBTQ Americans should not face
discrimination in the provision of goods and services and state laws
may continue to prohibit such discrimination.”
“In today’s narrow ruling against
the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court acknowledged
that LGBTQ people are equal and have a right to live free from the
indignity of discrimination,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a
statement. “Anti-LGBTQ extremists did not win the sweeping ‘license
to discriminate’ they have been hoping for – and today’s ruling
does not change our nation's longstanding civil rights laws. Yet, the
fact remains that LGBTQ people face alarming levels of discrimination
all across the country and HRC’s efforts to advance equality are as
urgent as ever. With LGBTQ people at risk of being fired, evicted or
denied services in 31 states, HRC continues to build momentum for the
Equality Act, to elect pro-equality candidates up and down the
ballot, and to fight in every corner of our country to advance
policies that protect LGBTQ people from being targeted for who they
are or whom they love.”