The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7 – 2 in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple based on his sincerely held religious beliefs. The ruling in Hughes v. United States found the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the Free Exercise Clause; and “its order must be set aside.”
The case before the Court dates back 5 years, and the issue was whether a Christian business owner could be forced to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Charlie Craig and David Mullins went to Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012 to order a cake for their same-sex marriage.
Jack Phillips, the owner of the Denver-area bakery, refused based on sincerely-held religious belief. Mr. Phillips, who describes himself as a “cake artist,” is also a Christian. He closes his business on Sundays and refuses to make other cakes that conflict with his religious beliefs, including those that contain alcohol or have Halloween themes.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled Mr. Phillips’ refusal violated state discrimination laws and that he had “no free speech right” to turn down Craig and Mullins’ request.
However, the court found the Civil Rights Commission to be hostile to Christian belief.
The Court wrote in the majority that “the delicate question of when the free exercise” of the baker’s religion must yield to an otherwise valid exercise of state power needed to be determined in an adjudication in which religious hostility on the part of the State itself would not be a factor in the balance the State sought to reach.”
Chief Justice John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch joined Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion. Justice Kagan concurred, joined by Justice Breyer; Justice Gorsuch concurred, joined by Justice Alito. Justice Clarence Thomas concurred in part and in the judgment.
Appeals in similar cases are currently pending, including one at the Supreme Court from a florist who didn’t want to arrange flowers for a same-sex wedding.
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