Supreme Court Will Take Up Christian Baker's Refusal to Serve a Gay Wedding
On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would consider the case of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. This case could set a powerful precedent for navigating religious freedom and LGBT issues.
"Our constitution guarantees the rights of free exercise of religion and free speech for every American. By granting review of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court of the United States has indicated that it wants to consider whether people of faith who operate a business will be welcomed to the public square or driven from it," Michael Berry, deputy general counsel at First Liberty Institute, told PJ Media in a statement Monday.
"Americans want a diverse public square that tolerates a variety of beliefs and opinions," Berry said. He emphasized that Phillips represents many other Americans who wish to opt out of providing certain goods and services for homosexual weddings.
In the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for Charles Craig and David Mullins, who intended to get married in Massachusetts and have their reception in Colorado. In 2012, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission charged Phillips with breaking the state's anti-discrimination law, which says businesses open to the public may not deny service to customers based on their race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.
State courts upheld the commission's decision, but Phillips appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing he deserved a religious exemption based on free speech and free exercise of religion, from the First Amendment.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Phillips' lawyers characterized him as a "cake artist" who will "not create cakes celebrating any marriage that is contrary to his understanding of biblical teaching." They noted that the baker refused to make cakes to celebrate Halloween or that carry "anti-American or anti-family themes."
"They said you have to create cakes for same-sex couples, so he removed himself from the market," Jeremy Tedesco, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, told the L.A. Times. "He chose to stop making cakes."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers argued that the Supreme Court's consideration of the case could open a "gaping hole" in civil rights laws if businesses can opt out of providing services for events that they do not wish to promote, such as homosexual weddings.
But such cases arguably come down to basic rights such as free speech, freedom of association, and free exercise of religion. A wedding is a public event, and a baker (or florist, or other event artist) who contributes to the event could reasonably be considered to have endorsed the event publicly.
Deciding not to speak in favor of an event, or not to associate with certain people in a public event, or to act according to a sincerely held religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman is triply defended by the First Amendment.