On June 4, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop in a 7-2 decision. The majority rule of the Supreme Court Justices sided with Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, in a case pertaining to religious rights under the Constitution’s first amendment regarding freedom of religion.
The conflict first arose in 2012 when partners David Mullins and Charlie Craig requested a wedding cake made by Phillips’ bakery in Lakewood, Colorado. Phillips refused, explained that he did not feel comfortable using his skills to create anything symbolic for something he does not believe in. In this case, this was gay marriage.
He assured the couple that by not making their wedding cake, he was not intending to disrespect them, but was instead exercising his creative freedom and freedom of religion. Still, he would happily bake them a cake for another occasion.
Mullins and Craig expressed feelings of humiliation and frustration as they felt that their rights as a gay couple had been violated by Phillips. They claimed that Phillips was not in accordance with the Colorado State anti-discrimination law, which bars businesses from refusing services to people based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.
The case ultimately came down to the question of freedom of religion vs. freedom of speech, a situation that had the potential to become a major step toward resolving conflicts between religious freedom and anti-discrimination laws. The final decision was determined when two of the court’s four liberal justices , Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, decided to vote in favor of freedom of religion along with the five conservative justices on the court.
President Donald J. Trump also weighed in on the controversy, advocating that the First Amendment gives United States citizens the right to exercise their freedom of religion. Trump was pleased with the outcome of the hearing, having expressed support for Phillips throughout the trial.
“Today’s decision means our fight against discrimination and unfair treatment will continue,” Mullins and Craig said in a statement after the ruling was revealed. “…we have always believed that in America, you should not be turned away from a business open to the public because of who you are.”
Perspectives on how the Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission[MW3] will affect future conflicts of the same nature is a controversial topic.
“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that 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 said in a statement regarding the effects of the ruling.
The Supreme Court indicated that this was a narrow decision applied to this case alone and is not intended to set a larger precedent for future cases. However, members of the LGBTQ+ community fear that they may now be discriminated against on the grounds of religious freedoms.