Wedding Cake Dispute Leads to Supreme Court Case on LGBT Discrimination

Wedding Cake Dispute Leads to Supreme Court Case on LGBT Discrimination

Trinity Cortes, Contributor

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard a case regarding the refusal of service to two gay men by a baker in Colorado.

Baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, refused to make a wedding cake for couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig because of his religion. Phillips denied the couple’s request because he did not want to create anything that would violate his faith, as well as his belief that marriage was between a man and woman only. He offered to make the couple other pastries, at which point they stormed out of his shop. They didn’t believe that this was an act of religious faith, but rather an act of discrimination.

The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled in their favor and passed a state anti-discrimination law. Philips took the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals, arguing that making him create a wedding cake for the couple violated his right to freedom of speech and exercise of religion. After the court ruled that the law was not violating his rights but instead preventing discrimination, Philips took the case to the Supreme Court.

Kristin K. Waggoner, a lawyer representing Philips, argued that the First Amendment allows him the right to decline wedding cakes that go against his religion. She stated that Philip is protected by two parts of the amendment: his right to religious exercise, as well as his right to free speech. According to CNN, Waggoner said that his “artistic expression” means he would “understand that it celebrates and expresses support for the couple’s marriage,” as well as that the Supreme Court’s compelled speech doctrine “forbids the commission from demanding that artists design custom expression that conveys ideas they deem objectionable.” Philips stated in an interview according to CNN, “I feel I’m being compelled to create artwork for an event — an inherently religious event — that goes against my faith, and I’m being compelled to do so under penalty of jail time and fines.”

Mullins and Craig, however, have a different opinion on the case. According to CNN, Mullins said in an interview, “This case is about more than us, and it’s not about cakes. It’s about the right of gay people to receive equal service.” Craig stated, “This isn’t about artistic expression. I don’t feel like we asked for a piece of art, or for him to make a statement, we simply asked him for a cake, and he denied that to us simply because of who we are.” The couple is being represented in court by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Although the outcome of the case is yet to be determined, the real question people are asking is: what does this mean for the LGBT community? People fear that if the Supreme Court sides with Philips, it could retract its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which allowed the right of same-sex couples to get married. According to CNN, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy worries about the future of the LGBT community as a result of this case, saying if Philips won, “could the baker put a sign in his window saying we do not bake cakes for gay weddings?” Kennedy, who penned the Supreme Court’s ruling of same-sex marriage two years ago, later appeared to be on Philip’s side, stating, “Tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual. It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs.” According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, twenty other states and the District of Columbia prohibit places of public service to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The Trump Administration has also become involved in this case, making statements that show their support for Philips. According to CNN, Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued that, “A custom wedding cake is not an ordinary baked good; its function is more communicative and artistic than utilitarian.” He also stated, “Accordingly, the government may not enact content-based laws commanding a speaker to engage in protected expression: An artist cannot be forced to paint, a musician cannot be forced to play, and a poet cannot be forced to write.” Although government lawyers draw a line when it comes to race-based discrimination, the future for Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission remains uncertain.