In a closely watched decision Monday, the Supreme Court found the Colorado owner and master baker of Masterpiece Cakeshop was within his rights when he refused to make a custom wedding for a same-sex wedding, saying that to do otherwise was against his moral and religious convictions. (Full decision embedded below.)
Jack Phillips, a Christian, was sued by David Mullins and Charlie Craig, a gay couple, when Phillips said he would not participate in their wedding by designing a custom cake (although he would sell them any non-custom item they wished).
The Daily Caller News Foundation reported:
After a short discussion with the prospective patrons, Phillips said he would not sell them a custom wedding cake due to his deeply-held religious beliefs. Mullins and Craig filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, prompting a lengthy legal battle culminating in an appeal to the high court.
Kennedy explained that the Colorado law can validly protect LGBT patrons, must found the state agency applied the law in a manner hostile towards Phillips’ evangelical beliefs.
“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,” Kennedy wrote.
Like other Christians faced with similar court action, Phillips’ case garnered national attention.
Last fall, the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) joined 32 other family policy councils across the country in filing a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Phillips after the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that a state law could force the baker to create a custom cake that conveys a message contrary to what he believes as a Christian.
As The Tennessee Star reported in September:
The amicus brief was drafted by David French, an attorney and senior writer for National Review who lives in Columbia, about 45 miles south of Nashville.
In a letter to supporters, David Fowler, the president of FACT, said joining the amicus brief is in keeping with “our mission to defend free speech and religious liberty.”
The Supreme Court has received at least 45 friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the baker. The support comes from 479 creative professionals, 20 states including Tennessee, and 86 members of Congress, all Republicans. A variety of legal experts, civil rights advocates and religious groups have also filed briefs.
The Trump administration weighed in on the case last week when the Department of Justice filed a brief backing Phillips.
In July 2012, Phillips was asked by two men to bake a cake for their wedding reception before same-sex marriage even became legal in Colorado. The couple planned to marry in Massachusetts, where it was legal, and hold a reception in Denver. Phillips declined to design the cake because of his faith. The men filed a complaint with the state civil rights commission. The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld a decision by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
“That decision ordered Phillips and his employees to design custom wedding cakes that celebrate same-sex marriages if the shop designs wedding cakes for opposite-sex marriages,” explains Alliance Defending Freedom. “It also required Phillips to re-educate his staff, most of whom are his family members—essentially telling them that he was wrong to operate his business according to his faith. He must also report to the government for two years, describing all cakes that he declines to create and the reasons why. As a result of the ruling, Phillips has lost an estimated 40 percent of his business.”
Today’s ruling is being characterized as “narrow” due to the Court’s focus on the behavior of the Colorado Commission, versus the heart of the case itself, and therefore, the ruling is largely limited to the facts at hand, with limited application in related cases.
Newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion joined by Justice Samuel Alito. Justice Elena Kagan wrote a concurring opinion joined by Justice Stephen Breyer. Justice Clarence Thomas also filed a concurring opinion, which Gorsuch joined. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
Watch a summary of Jack Phillips story:
Read the decision and concurring opinions: