What the Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision Means for the Future

July 2, 2018

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On Monday, June 4, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In a 7-2 decision, the court cited free exercise of religion as the basis for the ruling. The case settled a 2012 incident when David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado seeking a wedding cake. Phillips refused to bake the cake on the grounds that he did not want to convey his support for same-sex marriage, a practice contrary to his religious beliefs. After the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled against the baker, his lawyers took the case to the Supreme Court. The Court offered a narrowly focused ruling constructed on the premise that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown itself to be hostile towards religion (based on the comments of one of its members). Despite the ruling, in the majority opinion Justice Anthony Kennedy did reaffirm civil rights protections for LGBTQ individuals: “The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts,” he wrote, “all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”

This week the Berkley Forum asks: What does the decision of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission mean for the future of LGBTQ rights, anti-discriminatory laws, and religious freedom in the United States?

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