SCOTUS Hears Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

Charlie Craig and David Mullins are shown in their home in Denver on Nov. 28. The Colorado couple is at the core of a legal case that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court for oral arguments on Dec. 5

The case, which the court will decide by June, is Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 16-111. Both sides agree that a ruling in favor of Phillips would also open the door to claims from others who engage in professional services - florists, for example - that their religious liberty exempts them from public accommodation laws applicable to other businesses. (While same-sex marriage had been legally recognized in MA since May 2004, it wasn't until 2014 that Colorado legalized same-sex unions.) However, when Phillips learned the two men wanted him to create a cake to celebrate a same-sex union, he refused, citing his religious belief that marriage should exist only between a man and a woman.

Phillips said he couldn't design a custom wedding cake for two men who requested it.

Kennedy wondered if that showed a "hostility to religion".

"We got Jack's back", Phillips' supporters said.

Charlie Craig (seated) poses with his mother Debbie Munn and husband, Dave Mullins, pose before Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado is heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Samuel Alito questioned how Phillips could be accused of discrimination when gay marriage wasn't yet legal in Colorado.

All three sat in the third row of the court's public section for the roughly 85-minute oral argument inside the packed courtroom. The outcome of the case seemed to rest with the 81-year-old justice, who often finds himself with the decisive vote in cases that otherwise divide the court's conservatives and liberals.

"The primary objective of a food of any kind is to be eaten", said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the four liberal court members. "The hair stylist?. The makeup artist?"

More generally, Justice Stephen Breyer said, "What is the line?"

They fear that if the Supreme Court ultimately sides with Phillips, it will diminish its landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

"I don't think you could force the African-American sculptor to sculpt a cross for the Klan service", Francisco said in a reference to the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan. But as we argue in an amicus brief on behalf of fifteen religious minority groups, significantly more people of faith-and religious minorities in particular-stand to suffer if Phillips' argument prevails. Why?

All eyes were on Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in today's U.S. Supreme Court clash between Colorado's anti-discrimination laws and free speech. The couple was planning to marry in MA and hold a reception in Colorado. They said the court has never recognized what they call a constitutional right to discriminate.

The high court has weighed in twice on the subject of same-sex marriage.

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker moved to extend the benefits to couples legally married in other states, after the ruling in US v. Windsor finding that parts of the Defense of Marriage Act denying government recognition of legal same-sex marriages were unconstitutional. In 2015, it extended same-sex marriage nationwide.

"It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, honest conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned", Kennedy wrote in 2015. The nation's highest federal court agreed to review the case in June this year.

Over the past three months, the high court has been flooded with almost 100 "friend of the court" briefs, equally divided between the two sides.

But when the subject turned to free exercise of religion, Kennedy was infuriated by a part of the record where one of the commissioners on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, who ruled against Phillips, noted that using freedom of religion to justify discrimination is a "despicable piece of rhetoric".

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