Addressing the elephant in the room

AP reports that Supreme Court Narrowly agrees with Colorado baker that refused to make gay wedding cake

Colorado baker

The Supreme Court sided with the Colorado baker that refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple today. The ruling was a 7-2 majority. The Associated Press reported the ruling as a narrow ruling.  I am not very good at math but a 7-2 ruling looks like a majority ruling to me.

The justices’ decision turned on what the court described as anti-religious bias on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when it ruled against baker Jack Phillips. The justices voted 7-2 that the commission violated Phillips’ rights under the First Amendment.

The case was highly anticipated as the gay community hoped to use it as a strong political statement. Judge Anthony Kennedy who has been rumored to be looking at retirement said in his majority opinion that the larger issue “must await further elaboration” in the courts. Appeals in similar cases are pending, including one at the Supreme Court from a florist who didn’t want to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

The disputes, Kennedy wrote, “must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”

 

The gay couple in the center of the Colorado baker case Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, complained to the Colorado commission in 2012 after they visited Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver and the baker quickly told them he would not create a cake for their wedding celebration. They were married in Massachusetts because same-sex marriage was not yet legal in Colorado.

Colorado law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the commission concluded that Phillips’ refusal violated the law, despite Phillips’ argument that he is opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Colorado state courts upheld the determination.

In December Kennedy was plainly bothered by comments by a commission member that the justice said disparaged religion. The commissioner seemed “neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs,” Kennedy said in December.

That same sentiment coursed through his opinion on Monday. “The commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion,” he wrote.

Liberal justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined the conservative justices in the outcome. Kagan wrote separately to emphasize the limited ruling.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. “There is much in the court’s opinion with which I agree,” Ginsburg wrote of Kennedy’s repeated references to protecting the rights of gay people. “I strongly disagree, however, with the court’s conclusion that Craig and Mullins should lose this case.”

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