U.S. top court rules for baker in gay wedding cake case

HIGH STAKES The U.S. Supreme Court could decide some blockbuster cases today as the term nears its end. AP file

Credit AP HIGH STAKES The U.S. Supreme Court could decide some blockbuster cases today as the term nears its end. AP file

The US Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a baker in Colorado who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. "The Civil Rights Commission's treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the honest religious beliefs that motivated his objection", Justice Kennedy wrote.

Colorado is one of 22 states whose civil rights laws require businesses that are open to the public to serve all customers on an equal basis and without regard to their sexual orientation. But the commission violated Phillips' rights, Kennedy said, because its "treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the honest religious beliefs that motivated his objection".

In doing so, the commission violated Phillips's religious rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Justice Kennedy was quick to say the court's ruling was made on the specifics of this case, and that future similar cases may have the opposite outcome.

Of the 50 states, 21 including Colorado have anti-discrimination laws protecting gay people.

Dodging a wider ruling on the subject, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the 7-2 majority that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had violated Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips' rights by its "hostility" to his religious beliefs as he was found to be in violation of law; he was ordered to anti-discrimination training.

The verdict said the commission had shown "clear hostility" and implied religious beliefs "are less than fully welcome in Colorado's business community". Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Samuel Alito co-wrote their concurring opinions.

"The broad rule that the bakery was looking for here was that it had a license to discriminate", said James Essex, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

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The Court did not rule on the larger issue, but opened the door for more cases.

The Court noted that Phillips had no problem selling other items to gay people, he just did not want to actively support something that went against his religious beliefs by creating a new cake specifically for a gay wedding.

Jack Phillip wouldn't bake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig in 2012, prompting lengthy court action.

Kennedy also spoke for the court in its 2015 ruling that upheld same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a society like ours. "This is about whether the government can use the coercive power of the state to force people to agree that was a good decision and celebrate those kind of marriages even if it violates their beliefs", Tedesco, continued.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined on the decision.

Craig and Mullins, on the other hand, wanted a wedding cake with no message on it. "The proceedings involved several layers of independent decision-making, of which the commission was but one".

The U.S. Supreme Court must still decide whether it will take up the case of a Washington state florist who refused to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding.

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