On June 4th, the United State Supreme Court produced the final verdict for the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, No. 16-111. The case arose in 2012 when a Colorado baker by the name of Jack Phillips refused his services to an engaged same-sex couple looking for a cake for their wedding reception. What makes this case so controversial is that Mr. Phillip’s refusal was established on the principle that creating a cake for a same-sex marriage was contradictive to his faith, and therefore would promote a LGBT supportive image for his bakery. Though originally this case was granted in favor of the couple when brought to the attention of the Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission, ultimately the United States Supreme Court’s majority rule was 7-2 in favor of Mr. Phillips.
Interestingly enough, this case was not a matter of the affirmation of gay rights. When the couple filed the complaint against Mr. Phillips, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission said Mr. Phillips had ‘violated a state law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.’ However, in an interview with the Todayshow, Mr. Phillips said that he “doesn’t discriminate,” with the matter of fact being he doesn’t “create cakes for every occasion they ask me to create.” So to what affect will this court case influence similar cases that are presented in the future? The deliberation of whether or not Mr. Phillips had a right to refuse service as a business owner was barely addressed by the court. The focal point of the case was that the commission originally delivered by the Colorado Civil Right Commission violated Mr. Phillip’s right to have religious freedom.
Though inherently freedom of speech and freedom of religion are not one in the same, the Supreme Court ruling was narrowly defined when it comes to the broader scheme of these two concepts. TheColorado Civil Rights Commission was originally discriminatory to Mr. Phillips, which in turn violated his first amendment right to maintain religious freedom. Too often, people associate religious freedom with derogatory free speech against minority groups such as the LGBT community. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission further illustrated this point because it automatically painted the big, bad picture of religion to being hateful towards those that don’t align with it. To be honest, that was how this case blew up almost instantly across the nation. The state of Colorado allowed two of the most controversial topics in America- religion and sexuality- to get out of hand and crucified both parties of the lawsuit in the media spotlight. Before the case was appealed, it proposed that there were only two alternatives to a solution but only one was correct. The correct alternative- and the one that was heavily favored- was that the court sided with the same-sex couple and therefore punish the business owner. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission rode on the emotions of the LGBT community, who after years of fighting to obtain rights have started to see progress in the U.S. Along with that, it would send a broader message to any business that holds religious beliefs that ultimately their values would not matter against American society. Many successful businesses find their company culture in its religious beliefs, Chick-fil-a being the most affluent example.
The Supreme Court of the United States was absolutely correct in its decision to not punish Mr. Phillips for denying service of a cake that he deemed contradictory to his beliefs. The Supreme Court also made this clear in its concluding statement: Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was not a case of Christianity versus homosexuality. It wasn’t a case of man vs. sin as many would liked to have believe. The Supreme Court upheld principles that this nation was founded on and will continue to be for centuries to come. And because our society is changing to be more inclusive of those that want to find their place as accepted citizens, the court did not reverse progressive decisions that have recently been put in place for these changes. Mr. Phillips was never unprofessional to the couple that came into his bakery looking for a wedding cake; he simply denied their request as a business owner. America is large enough to have space for different groups that want to have rights for themselves. Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission emphasized that public businesses in America should be open to all that wish to partake; however, because of the specificity of this case, Mr. Phillips was given the justice he deserved.
This article was written by Megan Gambrill, one of Reid Law's summer 2018 interns.