Monday, June 26, 2017

Supreme Court to take case on baker who refused to sell wedding cake to gay couple

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a challenge from a Colorado cake baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Jack Phillips, a born-again Christian and owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, cites religious beliefs as the reason he shouldn't be obligated to create the cake.

The couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, then filed a civil rights complaint in Colorado.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission pits a baker represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm, against two, married gay men represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Supreme Court's ruling should help resolve tension that's been brewing since the high court legalized same-sex marriage two years ago.

The high-profile case originated in 2012, when David Mullins and Charlie Craig stopped in to Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver to ask about a cake for their wedding reception. When the store's owner, Jack Phillips, realized that they were the couple being wed, he said his religious beliefs wouldn't allow him to take part in the event.

The couple's social media post about the interaction went viral, and the ACLU helped them take legal action.

Southwest Florida lesbian, gay, bisexual people, trans and lgbt activist Stephanie Burns said she will be watching the Supreme Court case closely.

"It could extend to other types of discrimination as well, if we start using the standard that someone has a personal religious objection to providing services to a whole class of people," Burns said.

"If any harm remains in leaving these wedding professionals free, it is only the tension we all face in living with people who disagree with us on the most personal matters," wrote Ryan Anderson, a senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation, in his analysis of the case for The Daily Signal.

However, legal experts on the other side of this debate say that no Americans should have a right to discriminate, even if they can point to religious teachings that justify their behavior.

"The basic question is whether David and Charlie and others throughout the country will be protected from discrimination," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, on a Monday press call. She offered examples of the high court protecting persecuted groups from religiously motivated discrimination in the past, such as when it rejected private, religious schools' efforts to stop black students from enrolling.