Monday, December 4, 2017

Who Owns The Cake?



Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will hear oral arguments about whether a Colorado baker has the right to refuse making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, who were married in Massachusetts, complained for being turned down by the baker. It has resulted in a case, The Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, that has dragged on for years.  This case resulted in a win for the plaintiffs. The American Civil Liberties Union represented Craig and Mullins during the appeals.
 Rather than comply with a state law, Jack Phillips, the baker in question,  closed his shop near Denver rather than comply with a state law that bars businesses open to the public from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

First Amendment vs. State Rights  

However, Mr. Philips believes that his First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of his religion have been violated.  According to the 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, most Americans endorse same-sex marriage. However, Mr. Phillips disapproves and refuses to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.  He will sell, however, pre-made nuptial products.  He just won’t make a custom cake that he considers his crowning achievement. Through Phillips’s eyes, this is also a matter of artistic expression and freedom of speech. He shouldn’t have to express ideas that he’s opposed to.

Is Phillips’s artistic expression protected by the First Amendment?  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect gays and lesbians who were given the national right to marry just a few years ago.  As it stands now, only twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws like Colorado’s that protect all customers from discrimination based on race, religion, gender or since 2007, sexual orientation.

 The State’s decision was upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals on appeal.  The Supreme Court of Colorado declined to hear an appeal.  The National Executive Director of PFLAG, Jaime Grant, Ph.D, will add opening testimony to the rights of the gay couple at the Supreme Court tomorrow.

It’s not just about the cake.  As The Wall Street Journal points out in Review & Outlook “Let Them Not Bake Cake,”  “a ruling for Colorado could encourage other government burdens on First Amendment religious rights, especially in this era of right-left cultural polarization.  Could the state compel Catholic doctors to perform abortions or require Catholic adoption services to place children with same-sex couples?”

On the other hand, the state of Colorado says that the issue is discriminating against gay people, not merely opposition to their right to marry.