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Vanilla ruling fails to slice into hot cake beef (Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission)

Quimbee Masterpiece Cakeshop

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In 2012, a same-sex couple visited Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a custom wedding cake. The store owner, Jack Phillips, refused to make the wedding cake. Phillips, a devout Christian, believed that making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple would violate his religious beliefs. Phillips offered to sell the couple other items the store offered, but he refused to make a custom wedding cake.

The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The couple argued that Masterpiece Cakeshop had violated Colorado’s antidiscrimination law, which prohibits businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation. Phillips contended that he could not be forced to create a cake for a same-sex wedding under the First Amendment because doing so would violate his sincerely held religious beliefs.

The commission concluded that Colorado’s statute could be constitutionally applied to Phillips and ordered him to stop discriminating against same-sex couples. Phillips appealed the ruling, and the United States Supreme Court ultimately took up the case.

Nevertheless, the Court did not address the general issue of whether a baker could be required to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple without running afoul of the First Amendment. Rather, the Court concluded that, in this specific case, the commission had shown hostility toward Phillips’s sincerely held religious beliefs. Such hostility violated the state’s duty of neutrality toward religion.

But the ultimate question of whether states can compel religious businesspeople to serve same-sex couples remains unanswered.

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