The U.S. Supreme Court this week ruled in favor of a Colorado bakery owner at the center of a cultural debate over the rights of businesses to deny service based on religious beliefs.
Writing for the majority in a 7-2 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy made it clear that the ruling did not resolve the underlying issue. The court found in favor of Jack Phillips, however, based on evidence unique to this case showing that his religious convictions were not given sufficient consideration by the state’s civil rights commission.
“The laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect gay persons and gay couples in the exercise of their civil rights, but religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression,” the decision read.
Kennedy wrote that Colorado’s law protecting gay citizens is “unexceptional,” but added that it “must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”
The nuanced opinion came as a disappointment for those who hoped the ruling would serve as vindication for David Mullins and Charlie Craig, the couple turned away by Phillips in 2012 when they attempted to order a wedding cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop.
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement on Tuesday describing what she called an “anti-civil rights ruling” from the Supreme Court.
“The Masterpiece Cakeshop case is about the most fundamental right of all Americans: to be free from persecution and discrimination because of who they are or whom they love,” she wrote.
Pelosi acknowledged that the decision was “narrowly framed to apply to the decision-making process by the state commission,” but nevertheless criticized the “wrongheaded” majority for a decision that “fails to uphold equality in this case.”
She went on to target the bakery, arguing that regardless of the civil rights commission’s behavior toward its owner, Phillips should still be held accountable for turning away the customers.
“Masterpiece Cakeshop is a commercial bakery open to the public, and such services clearly must be made available to the public on equal terms as determined by an independent review by the Colorado Court of Appeals which should have been upheld,” she wrote. “No business or organization open to the public should hide their discriminatory practices behind the guise of religious liberty.”
She concluded her statement with a call to action for Congress to “immediately move to pass the Equality Act, to remove all doubt that sexual orientation and gender warrant fundamental civil rights protections in the workplace and in every place.”
While Pelosi and others remain critical of the Colorado bakery and its owner, Phillips discussed the ruling in an appearance on Fox News and expressed gratitude for the support and encouragement he continues to receive.
“The response of the community has been overwhelmingly supportive,” he said.
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