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by Daveda Gruber:

On Monday the Supreme Court ruled on the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. This is a highly anticipated ruling in one of the most closely watched cases of the term.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker in 7-2 decision.

The justices set aside a Colorado court ruling against the baker. They ruled on the broader issue of whether a business can refuse to serve gay and lesbian people.

The court described as anti-religious bias on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when it ruled against baker Jack Phillips and the narrow ruling focused on that point.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion, “The Commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

Charlie Craig and David Mullins of Denver visited Masterpiece Cake shop to buy a custom-made wedding cake in July 2012.

Phillips refused his services when told it was for a same-sex couple. The state civil rights commission sanctioned Phillips after a formal complaint from the gay couple.

Mullins described their case as symbolizing “the rights of gay people to receive equal service in business … about basic access to public life.”

The Trump administration backed Phillips. He was represented in court by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is a conservative Christian nonprofit. He lost at every step in the legal appeals process and this brought the case down to the Supreme Court.

Phillips has complained that he lost business and had to let employees go because of the controversy.

Phillips said last year, “It’s not about turning away these customers, it’s about doing a cake for an event — a religious sacred event — that conflicts with my conscience.”

He has maintained that it’s his choice.

In December the court specifically examined whether applying Colorado’s public accommodations law to require the local baker to create commercial “expression” violated his constitutionally protected Christian beliefs about marriage.

The justices had to confront recent decisions on both gay rights and religious liberty.

A 2015 landmark opinion legalized same-sex marriage nationwide but a separate 2014 decision affirming the right of some companies to act on their owner’s faith by refusing to provide contraception to its workers had to be considered.

The Trump administration tended to agree with Phillips’ legal claims.

In October Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued broad guidance to executive branch agencies. He reiterated the government should respect religious freedom. In the Justice Department’s eyes this extends to people, businesses and organizations.

Civil rights groups were concerned that the conservative majority on the court may be ready to not take into consideration the protections for groups with a history of enduring discrimination.

They predicted that giving businesses the right to refuse service to certain customers would weaken non-discrimination laws and could hurt minorities.

 


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