Supreme Court rules in favor of Petitioner Masterpiece Cakeshop

Supreme Court rules in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Free Exercise clause trumps over public accommodations laws.

More to come, opinion was, as expected, by Kennedy.

1 Like

Court begins by noting that the case presents “difficult questions as to the proper reconciliation of at least two principles. The first is the authority of a State and its governmental entities to protect the rights and dignity of gay persons who are, or wish to be, married but who face discrimination when they seek goods or services.”

“The second,” Kennedy writes, “is the right of all persons to exercise fundamental freedoms under the First Amendment.”

“Whatever the confluence of speech and free exercise principles might be in some cases, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s consideration of this case was inconsistent with the State’s obligation of religious neutrality. The reason and motive for the baker’s refusal were based on his sincere religious beliefs and convictions.”

Commentary above is by Amy Howe at Scotusblog.

7 to 2, with Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissenting.

The constitution finally prevails! :cowboy_hat_face:


I should note this was a narrowly written decision.

So it can’t be used as precedent to change public accommodation laws? Is that it?


1 Like

Not sure, I must thoroughly read the full opinion first.

Doesn’t appear that way.

At this moment, I am relying on Amy Howe’s early commentary, which generally is accurate. I will read the decision momentarily.

I’m reading it too. Thanks!

I’ve always been conflicted on this. On the one hand, no one forces you to go into business, and when you do, you do so knowing the public accommodation laws

OTOH, people should be able to work this out for themselves.

Who is Amy Howe and why should we care about her opinion? The ruling appears clear.

The 1st amendment stands.

Here is the full syllabus from the decision:

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., is a Colorado bakery owned and operated
by Jack Phillips, an expert baker and devout Christian. In 2012 he
told a same-sex couple that he would not create a cake for their wedding
celebration because of his religious opposition to same-sex marriages—marriages
that Colorado did not then recognize—but that he
would sell them other baked goods, e.g., birthday cakes. The couple
filed a charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (Commission)
pursuant to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA),
which prohibits, as relevant here, discrimination based on sexual orientation
in a “place of business engaged in any sales to the public and
any place offering services . . . to the public.” Under CADA’s administrative
review system, the Colorado Civil Rights Division first found
probable cause for a violation and referred the case to the Commission.
The Commission then referred the case for a formal hearing before
a state Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who ruled in the couple’s
favor. In so doing, the ALJ rejected Phillips’ First Amendment
claims: that requiring him to create a cake for a same-sex wedding
would violate his right to free speech by compelling him to exercise
his artistic talents to express a message with which he disagreed and
would violate his right to the free exercise of religion. Both the
Commission and the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: The Commission’s actions in this case violated the Free Exercise
Clause. Pp. 9–18.
(a) The laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must,
protect gay persons and gay couples in the exercise of their civil
rights, but religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are
protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.
See Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U. S. ___, ___. While it is unexceptional
that Colorado law can protect gay persons in acquiring products and
services on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other
members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is
neutral toward religion. To Phillips, his claim that using his artistic
skills to make an expressive statement, a wedding endorsement in
his own voice and of his own creation, has a significant First
Amendment speech component and implicates his deep and sincere
religious beliefs. His dilemma was understandable in 2012, which
was before Colorado recognized the validity of gay marriages performed
in the State and before this Court issued United States v.
Windsor, 570 U. S. 744, or Obergefell. Given the State’s position at
the time, there is some force to Phillips’ argument that he was not
unreasonable in deeming his decision lawful. State law at the time
also afforded storekeepers some latitude to decline to create specific
messages they considered offensive. Indeed, while the instant enforcement
proceedings were pending, the State Civil Rights Division
concluded in at least three cases that a baker acted lawfully in declining
to create cakes with decorations that demeaned gay persons or
gay marriages. Phillips too was entitled to a neutral and respectful
consideration of his claims in all the circumstances of the case.
Pp. 9–12.
(b) That consideration was compromised, however, by the Commission’s
treatment of Phillips’ case, which showed elements of a clear
and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating
his objection. As the record shows, some of the commissioners
at the Commission’s formal, public hearings endorsed the view that
religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere
or commercial domain, disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and
characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of
his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.
No commissioners objected to the comments. Nor were they
mentioned in the later state-court ruling or disavowed in the briefs
filed here. The comments thus cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality
of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.
Another indication of hostility is the different treatment of Phillips’
case and the cases of other bakers with objections to anti-gay messages
who prevailed before the Commission. The Commission ruled
against Phillips in part on the theory that any message on the requested
wedding cake would be attributed to the customer, not to the
baker. Yet the Division did not address this point in any of the cases
involving requests for cakes depicting anti-gay marriage symbolism.
The Division also considered that each bakery was willing to sell other
products to the prospective customers, but the Commission found
Phillips’ willingness to do the same irrelevant. The State Court of
Appeals’ brief discussion of this disparity of treatment does not answer
Phillips’ concern that the State’s practice was to disfavor the religious
basis of his objection. Pp. 12–16.
(c) For these reasons, the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case
violated the State’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws
or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint. The
government, consistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise,
cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs
of affected citizens and cannot act in a manner that passes
judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs
and practices. Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508
U. S. 520. Factors relevant to the assessment of governmental neutrality
include “the historical background of the decision under challenge,
the specific series of events leading to the enactment or official
policy in question, and the legislative or administrative history, including
contemporaneous statements made by members of the decisionmaking
body.” Id., at 540. In view of these factors, the record
here demonstrates that the Commission’s consideration of Phillips’
case was neither tolerant nor respectful of his religious beliefs. The
Commission gave “every appearance,” id., at 545, of adjudicating his
religious objection based on a negative normative “evaluation of the
particular justification” for his objection and the religious grounds for
it, id., at 537, but government has no role in expressing or even suggesting
whether the religious ground for Phillips’ conscience-based
objection is legitimate or illegitimate. The inference here is thus that
Phillips’ religious objection was not considered with the neutrality
required by the Free Exercise Clause. The State’s interest could have
been weighed against Phillips’ sincere religious objections in a way
consistent with the requisite religious neutrality that must be strictly
observed. But the official expressions of hostility to religion in some
of the commissioners’ comments were inconsistent with that requirement,
and the Commission’s disparate consideration of Phillips’
case compared to the cases of the other bakers suggests the same.
Pp. 16–18.
370 P. 3d 272, reversed.
KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS,
C. J., and BREYER, ALITO, KAGAN, and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. KAGAN, J.,
filed a concurring opinion, in which BREYER, J., joined. GORSUCH, J.,
filed a concurring opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed
an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which
GORSUCH, J., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which
SOTOMAYOR, J., joined.

1 Like

Later, Mr. Phillips testified without contradiction that he would have refused to create a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage for any customer, regardless of his or her sexual orientation. Id., at 166–167 (“I will not design and create wedding cakes for a same-sex wedding regardless of the sexual orientation of the customer”). And the record reveals that Mr. Phillips apparently refused just such a request from Mr. Craig’s mother.

Makes sense. I never thought of that.

Doesn’t help the Gresham bakery that was driven out of business just with the court costs.


I suggest you do what I am about to do myself. Read the decision from beginning to end. Then it will be up to your own judgement based on the full record.

basically punts it back to Colorado to fix discrimination law.

which will be done to make it constitutional.


While I am somewhat sympathetic to the cake shop, I am worried about the precident. Can a restraunt owner refuse a gay couple due to religious beliefs? Or how about an interracial couple? Can an entire town just not serve gay people?

It seems the ruling is narrow, but I feel this can of worms is just getting bigger.

Wow. I would have thought a 5 to 4.

I just read the judgement you posted and it makes sense to me. It doesn’t open up general public accomadation laws in any way except where it involves one’s religious beliefs which is fine.

The bakers never had a problem with serving gays except where it interfered with their religious beliefs.

LOL. It was a narrow opinion. said the cakeshop wasnt given a fair hearing.