The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, focusing on the baker's treatment by Colorado's Civil Rights Commission.
In 2012, baker Jack Phillips told same-sex couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins that he does not create wedding cakes for same-sex couples. Craig and Mullins then filed a discrimination complaint against Phillips that year, claiming that Phillips had violated a state law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Colorado's Civil Rights Commission eventually sided with the couple.
The Supreme Court's ruling was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and said that the commission had violated the Constitution's protection of religious freedom in ruling against Phillips, who identifies as Christian. The Supreme Court ruled that the commission's action violated the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause and did not consider Phillips' case with the neutrality the clause requires.
"Phillips was entitled to the neutral and respectful consideration of his claims in all the circumstances of the case," Kennedy wrote.
"The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here," he continued. "The Civil Rights Commission's treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection."
Kennedy then described the perceived "hostility" towards Philips' religious beliefs, notably during the proceedings before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
"The Court's precedents make clear that the baker, in his capacity as the owner of a business serving the public, might have his right to the free exercise of religion limited by generally applicable laws," he wrote. "Still, the delicate question of when the free exercise of his religion must yield to an otherwise valid exercise of state power" should have been analyzed where "religious hostility on the part of the State itself would not be a factor."
The ruling was 7-2, with only Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting. Ginsburg noted that the actions of a stray few commission members should not discount the fact that Phillips violated the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act.
"What matters is that Phillips would not provide a good or service to a same-sex couple that he would provide to a heterosexual couple," she wrote.
The ruling did address gay-rights protections, reaffirming them in several instances and noting that future cases with similar circumstances would be considered separately.
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