Gay Rights, Religious Freedom At Issue In 'Masterpiece Cakeshop' Supreme Court Arguments

'Gay wedding cake' case comes before US Supreme Court

GSN spoke to lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who represented the late Edith Windsor in United States v. Windsor, about this case.

The case, which the court will decide by June, is Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 16-111.

The bakery asserts that enforcing Colorado's public accommodations law would force it to express support for a same-sex couple's wedding, which would violate its constitutional rights to speech and religion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who holds the court's key swing vote, and who penned the decision that recognized same-sex couples' right to marry, remained troubled.

He warned that a decision siding with the baker would give a green light to discrimination against gay people. The couple was Wednesday in MA and hosted a wedding reception in Denver one year before gay marriage was legal across the U.S. They wanted a cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop, where Phillips decorates cakes for weddings, graduations and other celebrations. The issue, simply put, is whether Colorado baker Jack Phillips was illegally discriminating against a same-sex couple or just exercising his right to religious freedom when he refused to create a cake for a wedding ceremony he viewed as sacrilegious. The organization that I lead, Alliance Defending Freedom, is representing the cake shop and its owner, cake artist Jack Phillips. Questions arose as to what constitutes art and whether food should have protections. "Why is there no speech (rights) in creating a wonderful hairdo?"

The argument is the first involving gay rights since the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that states could not prevent same-sex couples from marrying. Is there any form of compelled expression, the justices wanted to know, that would in the state's view cross the line? But the state government argues that what Phillips is trying to do is discrimination - by denying same-sex couples a service he'll provide to different-sex couples - and that's illegal under Colorado laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation from businesses that serve the public.

Charlie Craig, left, and David Mullins touch foreheads after leaving the Supreme Court, which is hearing their case.

"And you would not think that an affront to the gay community?" he asked Solicitor General Noel Francisco, a lawyer for the Trump administration, which has backed Phillips.

A Colorado cake baker and the same-sex couple for whom he declined to make a wedding cake were all at the Supreme Court to witness arguments in the case. In his final comments on the statements of one of the commissioners, Justice Kennedy said that he was concerned that the state had not been tolerant or respectful of the baker's beliefs. "And tolerance is most meaningful when it's mutual", Kennedy said. Justices often play devil's advocate during oral arguments to get the best cases from both sides. But as we argue in an amicus brief on behalf of fifteen religious minority groups, significantly more people of faith-and religious minorities in particular-stand to suffer if Phillips' argument prevails. Why? They will urge the court to embrace their interpretation of religious liberty principles, insisting that if they don't win, the rights of people of faith will be in serious jeopardy.

Mar and her defense team reiterated many times Craig and Mullins are a protected class with a right to service.

Phillips told reporters that the backlash against his business after his refusal has included death threats and harassment, adding, "We are struggling just to make ends meet and keep the shop afloat".

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