Friday, June 8, 2018

The Baker, The Cake, and The Couple Who Ate Crow

Last Monday, the Supreme Court decided the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission No. 16-11.  With just two dissenters, Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayer, the Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple, Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins who were married in Boston.

The Court sided with Phillips, who had lost forty percent of his business because of litigation, and had to fire six of his employees.  The grounds for the outcome, whose majority decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was that the Colorado Civil rights Commission, which had originally ruled against Phillips, had acted hostile as it allowed other bakers to refuse to create cakes that demeaned gays and same-sex marriage.  Consequently, what should have been the neutral and respectful consideration in which Phillips was entitled was therefore compromised.

This five-year battled ended in humiliation for Mullins and Craig who never got the cake even though same-sex marriage has been legal in Colorado since 2014.  Although the 7-2 decision ruled in Phillips's favor, The Court also acknowledged the equal rights of LGBT people.

Not The Big Picture

The Court, in this case, did not tackle the bigger picture: religious freedom vs. civil rights for LGBT Americans.  The crucible:  Can a business discriminate against LGBT persons based on the rights protected by The First Amendment?  Can a business owner invoke their First Amendment Rights when they refuse services to gay customers?

As it is, LGBT people, without a National Equality Law, are at risk for being fired, evicted or denied services in thirty-one states.  While the June 4th Supreme Court decision just settled Phillips's case, Phillips's win sets a precedent.  It doesn't bode well for the future:  what's next?  Will all tangential wedding services such as florists and photographers be allowed to shut their doors to those whose so-called "lifestyle" they disapprove of?

Kennedy acknowledged that business owners generally cannot deny equal access to goods and services under a neutral public accommodations law.  Shouldn't a gay person receive the same services when he walks into a store as a heterosexual would?  Cake is Cake.  It doesn't have to be endorsed by the baker.  Once it is made and showcased, you don't think about the baker's viewpoint of same-sex marriage, as Justice Ginsburg referenced.