The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a Christian Colorado baker cannot be forced to make a cake for a same-sex marriage when the ceremony violates his religious principles.
Monday’s 7-2 decision reversed a Colorado court’s ruling against baker Jack Phillips, who in 2012 refused to bake a cake for gay couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins.
The decision focused on the initial ruling against Phillips from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and left untouched the broader issue of whether professionals who oppose same-sex marriage can be compelled to provide goods and services for those ceremonies, USA Today reported.
“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts,” the majority opinion said, noting the broader battle in which this case was one part. “These disputes 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.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority decision, while Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
“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,” Kennedy wrote, according to The Hill.
“While it is unexceptional that Colorado law can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other member of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”
The case presented “difficult questions as to the proper reconciliation of at least two principles. The first is the authority of a State and its governmental entities to protect the rights and dignity of gay persons who are, or wish to be, married but who face discrimination when they seek goods or services,” Kennedy wrote.
“The second is the right of all persons to exercise fundamental freedoms under the First Amendment,” he wrote.
Kennedy said Colorado failed that test.
“Whatever the confluence of speech and free exercise principles might be in some cases, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s consideration of this case was inconsistent with the State’s obligation of religious neutrality. The reason and motive for the baker’s refusal were based on his sincere religious beliefs and convictions,” Kennedy wrote.
Kennedy noted that the case does represent a collision of rights, according to The Washington Post.
“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 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. That requirement, however, was not met here.”
Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan voted with the majority along with Justices Kennedy, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, as well as Chief Justice John Roberts.
Phillips had lost every round of his lengthy legal fight until Monday. Phillips said the question was not about the customers but rather about violating his own principles.
“It’s not about turning away these customers, it’s about doing a cake for an event — a religious sacred event — that conflicts with my conscience,” he said, according to Fox News.
The Trump administration supported Phillips’ legal claims.
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