SCOTUS Sides With Masterpiece Cakeshop in Strange Ruling

UPDATE #4: Via KUNC’s Bente Birkeland:

Statement from One Colorado:

Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court does not change our country’s long-standing principle that businesses open to the public must be open to all. While we are disappointed the Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop and their discrimination against Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, the fact remains that Colorado has a civil rights division and anti-discrimination laws that equally protect the fundamental rights of all Coloradans.”

“We strongly believe that the freedom of religion must be defended as one of our most fundamental values as Americans, but that freedom cannot be used to harm others or discriminate against others. Coloradans across our state – including LGBTQ Coloradans and their families – can take heart from today’s decision that no matter who you are, who you love, or what you believe, you will still be protected in our state from discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.


UPDATE #3: There appears to be plenty of agreement among legal experts that today’s ruling is fairly pointless. From CNN:

“Today’s decision is remarkably narrow, and leaves for another day virtually all of the major constitutional questions that this case presented,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “It’s hard to see the decision setting a precedent.”


UPDATE #2: Rep. Jared Polis, a leading Democratic candidate for governor:


UPDATE: AP via Colorado Public Radio:

The Supreme Court of the United States has ended a five-year legal battle in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, ruling that the commission’s actions violated the Free Exercise Clause.

The court is not deciding the big issue in the case, whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gay and lesbian people. [Pols emphasis]

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the the opinion for the court, which voted 7-2 to reverse a lower court’s ruling. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented. The justices’ limited ruling turned on what the court described as anti-religious bias on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when it ruled against baker Jack Phillips.


CNN reports, we’re working on getting more local responses to today’s important but narrow decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of a Lakewood cake baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple:

The court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility toward the baker based on his religious beliefs. The ruling is a win for baker Jack Phillips, who cited his beliefs as a Christian, but leaves unsettled broader constitutional questions on religious liberty.

“Today’s decision is remarkably narrow, and leaves for another day virtually all of the major constitutional questions that this case presented,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “It’s hard to see the decision setting a precedent.”

The ruling, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, held that members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed animus toward Phillips specifically when they suggested his claims of religious freedom was made to justify discrimination.

It’s a decision sure to energize both sides of the debate, since it appears to focus very specifically on the circumstances of this one case rather than addressing the broader issue of whether religious freedom entails a right to refuse service to persons who offend a business owner’s beliefs. Conservatives are certain to overreach in their interpretation, but the lopsided ruling does oblige LGBT rights advocates to fully understand their reasoning in order to properly respond. Colorado’s Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a separate concurring opinion with Samuel Alito, which may well stake out ideological ground the court’s majority does not.

There will be much to update as reactions come in, so watch this space.

16 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DaftPunk says:

    Shorter SCOTUS: We agree with Colorado that it is impermissible to discriminate against a class of people because of their innate sexual preferences in the name of religious belief, but it is even more impermissible to describe the real world effects of those bronze age religious prejudices with mean words (regardless of how accurate.)

  2. JohnInDenver says:

    The description of the Justices and their positions:

    KENNEDY , J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and BREYER , ALITO, KAGAN, and GORSUCH , JJ., joined. KAGAN, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BREYER, J., joined. GORSUCH, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which GORSUCH, J., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOTOMAYOR, J., joined.

    The ruling seems to be Every Commissioner should not talk about decisions or how religion has a history that includes bias, especially not before or during the hearing, and probably not after, either.

    One interesting consequence. If a Commissioner's comments are relevant to weighing their judgments, then a President's comments probably are relevant to weighing his Executive Orders. Life just got a bit easier for those working on the Muslim Ban(s).

    • ParkHill says:

      IANAL, but Kennedy's reasoning doesn't begin to make logical sense.

      If discrimination is wrong, then it doesn't matter what the commissioner said about it. 

      If you read what the commissioner actually said, it was neither mean nor wrong: Religion certainly HAS been used to justify all kinds of bigoted and evil things. 

      • RepealAndReplace says:

        It goes to the neutrality of the fact finder. At the risk of sounding like Fluffy defending Steve Lebsock, "What about due process?"

        As a gay man, I don't have any great love for this homophobic douche bag but he was entitled to be heard before an impartial tribunal.

        And you are correct, Park Hill: religion has been used to justify all kinds of bigotry going back to the Book of Leviticus telling folks from which nations it's okay to buy your slaves.

        More recently, I'm reminded of Bob Jones University – a racist organization that was so bad that the Reagan administration yanked its tax exempt status. By the way, has Trump restored it?

  3. gertie97 says:

    Apparently, the justices thought the Civil Rights Commission was being mean. A crash course in double-speak may be in order so commissioners sound nice.

  4. Pseudonymous says:

    Actually, there may be a point to this ruling after all.  There's no telling, of course, but there are thoughtful folks (here's one) chattering on the Internet about Kennedy's holding that impermissible hostility toward religion (a) isn't limited to the Jesus kind, and (b) may be applicable in another case in front of the court, namely Trump v. Hawaii.  It would be fascinating to see the right hoist on this particular petard.


    • notaskinnycook says:

      I agree, Pseudo. If there's one thing that can always be counted on, it's that the Religio-publicans will always go at least that much too far in justifying whatever they do.I expect some business owned by one of them to take this non-ruling and run with it. Maybe putting up a sign in their window saying "We do not serve gays (if they're being polite). Then we'll be right back where we started, with (hopefully) a Civil Rights Commission that will rule on the merits without hurting the bigot's delicate little feelings.

    • RepealAndReplace says:

      Pseudo, I appreciate your ability to turn that lemon into lemonade!

  5. Voyageur says:

    Duplicate deleted

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