When it comes to a person’s First Amendment right to Free Exercise of religion, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018) said a Christian baker doesn’t have to bake a cake for a gay couple.
The facts of this case are the following: In 2012, Charlie Criag and David Mullins, a gay couple, wanted a wedding cake, so they approached Masterpeice Cakeshop baker Jack C.Philips. However, Philips would not make them a cake because of his christian faith. Later, the couple filed a charge of discrimination with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, which rules against Philips. Eventually, a Colorado Court of Appeals affirms Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruling.
In this case, the Supreme Court had to address this issue: Did Jack C.Philips have a free exercise right when refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple?
Here’s the holding. The Colorado Civil RIghts Commision decision wasn’t neutral to Jack C. Philip’s religious beliefs; therefore, the Colorado Civil RIghts Commision violated Jack C. Philip’s right to religious liberty.
Surprisely, Justice Kennedy was expected to rule for the gay couple in this case; however, he broke with his tradition by ruling against gay rights. In a past case called Romer v. Evans, Justice Kennedy said an animus toward a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest. In Lawrence v. Texas, he said homosexual conduct isn’t a fundamental right, yet it is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. In United States v. Windsor, Justice Kennedy ruled Section 3 of the Defense Of Marriage Act unconstitutional because it violates the Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause; moreover, the Act’s definitions of “marriage” and “spouse” excludes same-sex couples. In Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Kennedy said states must license a marriage between same-sex couples under the Fourteenth Amendment; furthermore, states must recognize out of state marriages between same-sex couples. In past cases, Justice Kennedy ruled for gay rights; however, Justice Kennedy ruled narrowly for a christian baker’s right to religious liberty in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
Interestingly, this case pitted the right of Free Exercise against anti-discrimination laws. Did a person’s right to exercise his religious beliefs trump state anti-discrimination laws? Free Exercise won in this case.
Although a narrow ruling, this case opens up the door to challenging anti-discrimination laws. States can follow this ruling. However, just Colorado can be said to be bound by this judgement. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court said people have a right to religious belief with this case.
Overall, religious liberty trumped anti-discrimination law in this case. This case supported peoples’ right to religious liberty. Moreover, Colorado anti-discrimination laws were weakened with this case. However, the Supreme Court ruled narrowly, which some say only covers Colorado.