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Supreme Court Scheduled to Hear Bakery Case

August 24th, 2017


A bakery owner refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple due to his religious beliefs.

A bakery owner refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple due to his religious beliefs.

The United States Supreme Court announced at the end of June that the court will hear a case involving a bakery owner who refused to make a cake for a couple on the basis of the baker’s religious views concerning same-sex couples. The case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court in October.

The Facts of The Case

In 2012, a cake bakery company called Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado informed customers, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, that the company would not make the couple’s wedding cake. The company refused to bake this cake because the bakery’s owner does not support gay marriage and even vowed to close the bakery before compromising his religious beliefs.

Applicable Law in the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

Mullins and Craig initiated the case with Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission, which is a regulatory agency tasked with enforcing Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws. In 2014, the agency found that the cake bakery company had violated Colorado state law and ordered the bakery to change its discriminatory policy. In 2015, a Colorado appeals court unanimously ruled that the cake bakery would not be seen by the public as displaying or endorsing a perspective of supporting same-sex by merely baking a cake for the couple. As a result of this perspective, the Colorado appeals court ruled in favor of Mullins and Craig. The recent decision to hear this case comes after the Supreme Court decided twice not to hear the issue.

The Conflict Between State and Federal Law

The state of Colorado has anti-discrimination laws that prohibit businesses from discriminating in any manner based on a customer’s sexual orientation. The bakery owner is represented by the Alliance for Defending Freedom, which is a legal group that advocates for religious liberty. Legal counsel from the Alliance for Defending Freedom argues that the bakery owner did not discriminate on the basis of identity or status but rather declined to “engage” in speech celebrating an event that violated the shop owner’s religious beliefs.

Despite the anti-discrimination laws in the state of Colorado, legal counsel on behalf of Masterpiece Cakeshop argues that there are federal laws in the United States Constitution designed to protect religious freedom. In a lower court case, legal defense on behalf of the bakery owner claimed that these First Amendment rights “override” any applicable Colorado state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Unresolved Issues before the Supreme Court

This case is one of several lawsuits that have arisen in the last few years involving a business refusing service to same-sex couples. While there have been several significant developments regarding LGBTQ rights within the last few years, most significantly with the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling bringing marriage equality to all 50 states, most states still lack non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and there is no federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This puts many same-sex couples in legal limbo, even if they are able to get married. The Supreme Court’s decision to hear this bakery case will resolve how courts should balance federal First Amendment rights against state anti-discrimination laws, but may also weigh provisions in the federal Fourteenth Amendment concerning equal protection of the law. The Universal Life Church’s blog aims to follow these developments closely to keep our readers informed.

(image courtesy of Marcie Douglass)

One Comment

  1. W. James Hidley says:

    Thank you for keeping us posted! Just got ordained with the Monastery on the 2nd; looking forward to the future!

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