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Supreme Court will hear case of baker’s religious objection to gay weddings

Supporters of gay marriage wave the rainbow flag
Supporters of gay marriage wave the rainbow flag after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2015, that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry. The court ruled 5-4 that the Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law mean that states cannot ban same-sex marriages. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (USA Today) The Supreme Court agreed Monday (June 26) to  hear a challenge from a Colorado baker who had lost lower court battles over his refusal to create a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Like a New Mexico photographer three years ago, the baker cited his religious beliefs.

The justices — who upheld same-sex marriage nationwide in a landmark 2015 ruling — apparently decided that despite state laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, the merchants’ obligation to same-sex couples was not necessarily baked in the cake.

Colorado and New Mexico are among 21 states with such laws. As a result, Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, previously has lost in his effort to claim that the First Amendment protects his freedom of expression.

Twenty-nine states have no such laws, so gays and lesbians freed to marry by the Supreme Court in 2015 still can face discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. A Kentucky appeals court recently upheld a printer’s right to refuse to print shirts promoting a gay pride festival, reasoning that his actions did not discriminate against any individuals because of their sexual orientation.

Phillips, like Washington State florist Barronelle Stutzman and others across the country, has argued that his religious objections are paramount. Rather than bake for same-sex weddings, he stopped making wedding cakes altogether, at a substantial revenue loss.

The key to the outcome of similar cases appears to hinge on whether states have laws barring discrimination against gays and lesbians, or whether they have laws protecting religious liberty. Colorado falls on one side of the ledger, Kentucky on the other. 

The Supreme Court has sided with religious believers before, most recently by allowing an exception to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most businesses offer health insurance coverage for contraceptives that some equate with abortion.

Phillips’ legal battle began several years ago, when Charlie Craig and David Mullins came in to order a cake for their wedding reception. While the wedding was held in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage had been legal since 2004, the celebration was planned for back home in Colorado.

Phillips, a born-again Christian, refused to bake the cake. Craig and Mullins filed a civil rights complaint and won, first before an administrative court judge, then before the state Civil Rights Commission, and finally before the Colorado Court of Appeals. The state Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court passed up its first chance to hear a similar case in 2014 — eight years after Elaine Huguenin and her husband, Jonathan, told a lesbian couple that their Albuquerque photo studio only worked “traditional weddings.”

The Huguenins’ petition to the Supreme Court was based on their freedom of speech and expression, which they interpreted as the right to decide what messages their photography conveys.

(Richard Wolf writes for USA Today)

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  • Ironically if we all applied the Golden Rule we wouldn’t treat each other as we do even when we disagree with each other.

  • The issue has nothing at all to do with same sex weddings, asthe spate of antigay laws has shown, or with the religious beliefs of this handful of vendors, despite their fecal bleating about how horrible it is to treat gay people like full itizens.

    It has everything to do with validating religious discrimination in one case, and in one case only. Either laws prohibiting this discrimination have a place in our society, or they don’t. Finding the exception to them merely underlines why we have them in the first place.

  • There is no “Golden Rule” reason,
    nor any “Constitutional” reason,
    in fact not even a “Sane” reason,
    why a Christian printer should be forced by the government to print T-shirts that openly promote a gay pride festival.

    Gay pride festivals, like gay weddings, are diametrically, inherently, opposed to Christianity. You are free to participate in all that stuff, just don’t force Christians to participate in them. Golden Rule, y’know.

    Respect the constitutional religious freedom of all Americans. That’s it.

    Kudos, by the way, to the Kentucky Appeals Court for showing precisely such respect.

  • I just… do not get this NONSENSE.

    Just a few years ago, when a business came out against gay marriage the modus operandi was to BOYCOTT them, because why would we WANT to give our money to Chick Fil A?? THAT made sense to me.

    But now the idea is the EXACT OPPOSITE. Now you want to FORCE people to engage in transactions with you?? You want to force a homophobe to take your money, rather than using your money to support a pro-LGBT baker who would probably appreciate the business?? Why not support gay-friendly bakers and just let the homophobic business shoot themselves in the foot with their public and unpopular stance??

    This whole thing is backwards. Forcing homophobes to take your money is seen as the sensible thing to do. I’m like 95% sure that this is some sort of satirical dimension we live in.

  • Actually you got it in the wrong order. First was the boycott when the law supported the right to people to discriminate against one. Then came forcing people to take their money once that right to discriminate was lost.

    Forcing homophobes to take your money is the same action as forcing racists to do the same. The customer doesn’t have to give the bigot their money, but the bigots have no right to force others away.

  • 1 Corinthians 7: 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.

  • Too bad this country has not learned anything from history. Accepting everything as being okay, like gay marriage was the beginning of the down fall of the Roman empire. They decided to tolerate anything and everything. Then they crumbled from within.

  • It is undisputed that Masterpiece Cakeshop refuses to provide baked goods for same-sex weddings regardless of the content or message of the cake. The baker would have a better case if the couple had come in and said, we want this type of design. In fact, once they came in and said we want a cake for our wedding, he told them he would not serve them. His dubious argument to the Supreme Court relies on the idea that creating the cake is a “celebration” of same-sex marriage in the same way that creating a cake for Halloween “celebrates” Halloween. Not that the patrons are celebrating it, but that HE is celebrating it and therefore it’s forced speech. My outside prediction is that the baker will lose, but the Court will provide some room to allow exemptions where the vendor must actually engage in substantive “speech.” Calling all your cakes “custom cakes” doesn’t automatically win your case.

  • Buckle up. The Trinity Lutheran decision today put the nation on notice that SCOTUS is prepared to equivocate in Free Exercise cases. It’s anyone’s guess where this one will land.

  • Accepting everything as being okay, like gay marriage was the beginning of the down fall of the Roman empire.

    That’s a very novel historical theory. Much less conventional than my one that Rome fell due to a combination of the Huns and of contagious diseases.

  • Sometimes market forces work the way we’d like them to. Sometimes they don’t. It would be interesting to see signs popping up – “No Gays” or “Straights Only” vs. “Gay-friendly” or “Gays Welcome” – don’t you think? To be sure, an enlightened approach to settling our differences with a storied history, replete with neighborly reconciliation and joy, yes?

  • But Kennedy is still the progenitor of gay rights from a judicial end. I sincerely doubt he is going to overturn his own decisions here. The reason Colorado has laws protecting gays in the first place was due to Kennedy’s decision in Romer v. Evans in the mid 1990’s.

  • The arguments in defense of discrimination here are the same ones that were used in defense of segregation.

  • The Kentucky case was not decided on the basis of the printer’s Christianity. The court found that the customer was not actually discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.

  • While it may be easy to agree that a Christian printer or baker could deny service to gay people, what about folks like Emergency Medical Techs or doctors? Should teachers be able to turn away a gay student? What about wait staff at a restaurant – can they refuse a gay patron? There’s a Christian security guard where I work who’s only job is to buzz people in if he knows the person or ask for ID if he doesn’t – he knows I’m gay… if he refuses me service (pushing a button) is that ok? I support religious freedom, but society can’t function properly if you allow that kind of discrimination.

  • Pathetic that deity worshippers get to hide behind such nonsense. This baker undoubtedly serves those who commit equally punishable sins like divorce, adultry, etc. but cherry picks who not to serve based on personal preference. Christianity is a joke. Millions of people all differently interpreting and cherry picking Biblical Scripture. Imagine a football game where each player can make up the rules as he goes, AND change them at will based on personal desires.

  • Too bad you are too afraid to stop using the slippery slope fallacy, instead of relying on valid arguments to make your points.

  • No the rules are decided by voters through their elected officials and tested by the courts for constitutionality. We Americans changed the rules about slavery, Jim Crow, mixed marriages and have now redefined marriage. That’s a democracy and not a theocracy.

  • You won’t get neighborly reconciliation and joy by suing people – just the opposite. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

  • Christianity caused the fall of the Roman Empire. Church controlled governments of medieval Europe were pretty damn licentious.

  • When the rights of one group conflict with the rights of another, SCOTUS must deconflict. It will be important to see just how this plays out.

    I think it is important to observe “religion” is directly addressed by the Constitution. Homosexuality is not even mentioned. Perhaps that will be important, perhaps not.

    There is though a big difference between racism (based on something not connected to behavior i.e. national/ethnic background and/or skin color) and supporting a rite through being required to provide a service in support of a rite that may be forbidden by one’s religion. The latter is about being forced to support a behavior or a choice of another person. Big difference in the two.

  • and you can catch even more flies with a rotten corpse.

    If neighborly reconciliation is what you are looking, let me suggest you ain’t going get there by empowering bigotry.

  • “Gay pride festivals, like gay weddings, are diametrically, inherently, opposed to Christianity.”

    What a load of bull. There are lots of Christians who are rational, accepting and loving human beings. Bigotry is not inherent to being a good Christian. Indeed, quite the opposite.

  • None of the instances you cite involve a wedding ceremony, which is the usual basis for the refusal. Christians view weddings as a religious ceremony, and because of that view conservative Christians do not wish to profit or participate as a vendor in such circumstances because it violates their conscience before God. It has nothing to do with everyday retail service.

  • There is a great deal of historical precedent in his argument, which extends well beyond the example of Rome. The acceptance of homosexuality was only one straw that contributed to the bundle that broke the Roman Camel’s back.

  • Perhaps both the Huns and the contagious diseases were a function of the judgment of God, as previously illustrated in the narrative of the Old Testament. But then you’d have to trust that narrative to find it plausible.

  • You had the “dark ages” in between where the Catholic Church consolidated it’s power.

  • That depends on precisely when the Catholic Church performed that feat. I don’t think it can be delineated exactly, there are always overlapping influences and pressures as the world moves from one age to the next, and such events cannot always be neatly compartmentalized.

  • And it was high time, too. Free of confiscatory imperial taxation which prevented the peasantry from making even a subsistence living, and with chattel slavery on the steady decline, some progress that benefitted the common people, and not just Caesar and his sycophants, was finally possible.

  • Actually, we voters did NOT “change the rules.” Even Hillary Clinton said (before she ran for president in 2015-16) that the states should be allowed to vote their own conscience, pro or con, regarding legalized gay marriage. But you and I, our fellow voters & states, were totally shut out. NO democracy.

    So marriage & family got corrupted, but not by the voters. Just ONE court “changed the rules.” Even then, 4 out of 9 Supreme Court justices said “No, don’t do this, the Constitution doesn’t support this mess.” Even now, the dissenters’ constitutional arguments remain unrefuted. Period.

    So we voters were shut out, in “a football game” where an Alt-Left, Half-Atheist president and five judicial activists, simply “made up the rules” as they went.

  • Maybe so, but regardless, the slippery slope argument is always fallacious, and anecdotal evidence, ie. “historical precedents” is, along with hearsay evidence, among the least reliable and valid types. Regrettably you hang your hat on such evidence. I state “regrettably” because me thinks you could jettison your belief in horrible, passive aggressive deities like Jesus and your morals would remain the same if not improve.

  • It would help you immensely if you read a high school text book on Rome, instead of right wing religious websites. Then you might learn something about history.

  • Edward, I’m surprised at you repeating this nonsense. Rome lasted for 900 years, 150 of them under Christian dominion when it finally fell . Rome then continued in its eastern half until it was attacked by the crusaders.

  • Can you imagine if “religious freedom’ was accepted as an excuse to not comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

  • Phillips, like Washington State florist Barronelle Stutzman and others across the country, has arguedthat his religious objections are paramount. Rather than bake for same-sex weddings, he stopped making wedding cakes altogether, at a substantial revenue loss”

    So this homosexual couple want to FORCE Mr. Phillips to go back into the cake business to bake them one for their wedding reception?

    Since when does the LGBTQ community have the power to force a business to produce and/or sell the goods and services they want? What’s next–dime stores being forced to carry homosexual sex toys, bondage equipment and dildos?.

  • Actually, that’s another misconception, a misstatement of the issue.. If someone doesn’t wish to offer me his services because of my sinfulness, I don’t want to give him my money. But it seems that my sinfulness– something we all share according to this type of Christian– is the only one that he has a problem with.

    I do expect to b treated the same as everyone else. Either we allow discrimination on the basis of religious belief, or we don’t.

  • Again, never a mirror when you neeed one.

    You don’t get neighborly conciliation when you say “you filthy sinner. I need not treat you the same as everyone else, and I will make sure of and go to curt and fight you every inch of he way.”

  • Open commerce isn’t participating in a religious rite. It’s selling goods and services available to the general public. Religion is not an excuse to discriminate. Discrimination is a legally recognized attack on people. Not an exercise of faith or conscience. An act of malice and intentional harm.

    Anti gay bigotry only differs from other forms of prejudice in the degree people still consider it socially acceptable. It hasn’t become as embarrassing yet as the others. The idea doesn’t change, that there are groups you can attack in legally acceptable manners. Only the targets.

  • You need a mirror? Why didn’t you say so. God’s word is a great mirror. I heartily recommend it.
    The Bible gives specific guidelines in fostering reconciliation, but endorsing, legalizing, normalizing, legitimating sexual perversions isn’t the way to reconciliation.
    re: “filthy sinner”. Sounds like you are under conviction by the Holy Spirit. After being a Christian for 50 yearsJohn Bunyan (author of Amazing Grace) was found sitting on a tree stump weeping. He still could not understand why God would forgive a sinner like himself. And all Christians should acknowledge that same truth.

    2 Corinthians 5:16ff
    16 So from now on we do not regard anyone according to the flesh. Yes, though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet we do not regard Him as such from now on. 17 Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. Look, all things have become new. 18 All this is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them, and has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us. We implore you in Christ’s stead: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

    Oh, btw, if a gay couple came to my flower shop and wanted to buy flowers from me for their “wedding” I would sell them the flowers. If they came to my bakery and wanted me to bake a cake for them, I would.
    If they invited me to their wedding I would politely decline – but I might buy them a gift if they were my friends.
    But I would not castigate my Christian friends who could not do likewise for religious convictions.

  • Any worker has the right to acept or not a task. We have to respect worker decition. Be the reasons that have been, each one owns his own work. That is freedom.

  • The LGBTQ community should patronize businesses separate from Conservative Christians but somehow equal in terms of quality and services. Hmmm, where have we heard such talk before?

    “What’s next–dime stores being forced to carry…dildos?”
    I think they are doing that anyway. 🙂
    https://www.walmart.com/ip/Percussion-Massager/4100504
    https://www.walmart.com/ip/Magic-Wand-Personal-Massager-HV-260/27126900

    “So this homosexual couple want to FORCE Mr. Phillips to go back into the
    cake business to bake them one for their wedding reception?”

    Nope at this point Mr. Phillips just wants to make a big stink and violate laws for publicity. He violated the laws and received the appropriate punishment for it.

  • No, Floyd, cherry picking, making lists of the style du jour, the arbitrary creation of sects devoted to particularistic interpretations — and yea verily, the habit of making stuff up out of thin air — these are the hallmarks of every orthodoxy.

    These people tend to believe that there is only one truth, the one they hold at any given moment. Excuse me, THE one they hold at any given moment.

  • The author of Amazing Grace is John Newton, a slave trader who repented. John Bunyan wrote A Pilgrim’s Progress

  • You make a fine distinction I’ll admit, as it relates to the Eastern Roman Empire. Western bias on my part no doubt for failing to take that into consideration in my remarks (Just too caught up with the Caesars’ I guess).
    I would question “900 years,” at least as far the West is concerned. Even as I commented, a nagging voice in the back of my mind declared, “Check your reference Library.” Which in my haste I failed to do. I think the rise of the Roman Empire can be dated rather more precisely than it’s Fall in any case. Nor do I agree the “Dark Ages” equates exactly with “Mediaeval,” though most people perceive it that way. I think there is room for nuance in the application of these terms. In any case, Spuddie’s charge, I believe it was he; that the Fall of Rome can be traced to Christianity, is absurd to my way of thinking.

  • We would do well to look to the example of Rome, but we won’t, the coming cause of our national fall will not be a direct correlation, but it should prove historically familiar. Naturally, that is a pessimistic viewpoint, but the great thing about pessimism is that one is never disappointed and rarely surprised.

  • Most people believe any number of popular myths, but historians don’t really use the term “dark ages” to refer to the medieval period — because they weren’t dark. It wasn’t a time of spectacular art and literature, perhaps, but it was a time of great progress in other ways which benefitted ordinary people finally free of the yoke of Rome.

  • Your Religious Beliefs are yours alone and should not dictate how society makes laws. I’m sorry if you feel that you are being denied the Freedom of Religion. But if you open up a business in a Community or state we’re it Illegal to discriminate based on Sexual Orientation then you have no one to blame but yourself. For failure to either ignore the possibility that you would run afoul of the law.

  • I think it’s the idea that rankles most. Just the thought of being treated as a second class citizen chaps my hide. But I too would not sue. I’d go elsewhere. I think all the anti gay laws passed over the decades at the dictate of Religion is put a foul taste in the mouths of many and want to make their lives as miserable as the religion has made our lives. Wrong or Right that’s how I see it.

  • SCOTUS may agree with you. It may not. Or it may say your point is irrelevant. We’ll see.

  • Exactly. Why the framers enshrined freedom of religion into the constitution alone with other essential freedoms.

  • Every court so far has, because it is a straightforward issue. Frankly I see SCOTUS punting here and saying it is a state law only and not make a decision.

  • You would never see “No Gays” or “Straights Only,” because nobody really wants that. You might, however, see “traditional weddings” specified among the list of services provided.

  • The idea that rankles me is not the crappy treatment. It’s the idea that we have laws at every level of government, and have had them for more than 50 years, which forbid religious discrimination. They are demanding the SPECIAL RIGHT to discriminate on the basis of religious belief, in this case, and in this case ONLY.

    No. Just no.

  • Rome began around 400-500 BC. It was under christian control from 325 to 476 AD. That’s where both figures come from.

    Blaming a mythical homosexuality for its fall, when homosexuality was forbidden by the Christian government, but not blaming the Christian government, is a special kind of vision.

    But of course, Rome didn’t fall. It simple changed venues.

  • Homosexuality helped keep Rome strong. It was Christianity that weakened Rome to the point that it could be taken down by its enemies. Once social conservatives among the Romans controlled the government, they forbade homosexuality in the ranks of the Roman army, closed theaters, drinking establishments and otherwise demoralized the whole empire, making it easier for Rome’s enemies to attack it.

  • Homosexuality was part of Roman military policy during the time of Christ. Romans observed how permitted homosexuality in the ranks of the Greek army helped the Greeks be fiercer in battle and adopted it as they did with everything they saw as helpful to making Rome stronger. That’s why Rome eventually eased back on Christian persecution. But when the social conservatives among the Christians took over the Roman government, their anti-gay military policies weakened the army. It’s the Christians who so weakened Rome that it fell victim to invaders, not homosexuality. When homosexuality was permitted in the Roman army, Rome was invincible in battle. The historical dates of gay inclusion and military prowess don’t lie, and neither do the dates for exclusion by the Christians, once they ruled Rome.

  • You shouldn’t worry about laws of the present day but the sin that determines your eternity. B1Jetmetch

  • So you cannot use the excuse that “sexual orientation” is a choice.
    That was my point. Mr. Phillips can choose another religion.

  • With all due respect Ma’am. That’s is MY BUSINESS and mine alone. What I do or fail to do in the eyes of God is between us. I have never liked organized religion as far as I was concerned. I have never liked the image of Holier than Thou. Wether that image is illusionary or not. You don’t get to dictate what Faith one should follow. That has caused MORE WARS AND HUMAN MISERY than any other reason to go to War. We fled Europe to escape that in 1620. Now here we are four centuries later and Christianity in this country is more worried about saving non believers than cleaning up their own backyards. As far as I’m concerned I would never do business in any store where the owner had a religious objection. But the incessant laws that the Social Conservative Do Gooders that they have tried over and over again to regulate morality concerning sex, sexual orientation in particular, has LEFT US IN A VERY VERY FOUL MOOD. And are trying to give them a taste of their own bitter medicine. Right or wrong we are fed up with fighting for the same things you and yours enjoy. . And IT IS BITTER MEDICINE INDEED. Worry about your own congregation and others that are part of your church OR WANT TO BE PART OF YOUR GROUP. Stop trying to get those of us to follow your faith. I give respect and credit where that respect and credit is earned on a personal level. I HAVE ALWAYS RESPECTED RELIGION AND THOSE THAT BELIEVE IN THAT RELIGION. All religions. Not just the three monotheistic Judeism, Christianity, and Islam. Social Conservatives started this fight. Correction. Society started this fight in 1969 in A Bar in New York City Called Stonewall.

  • It’s still the same to me.

    All you’ve added is a claim that the bigot is also a hypocrite. A claim I can agree too.

    But I want to do business with a HYPOCRITICAL bigot even less than I want to do business with a regular bigot. I still want to boycott the discriminator who would not approve of my sexuality, and take my business to someone tolerant of it, rather than forcing the hypocritical bigot to take my money.

    The approach is still backwards and stupid and the exact opposite of the tactics employed just years ago. It’d be like instead of boycotting Chick Fil A for the statements of the owner, the LGBT community decided to ONLY get food from Chick Fil A.

    Boycotts should be the response to these incidents, not these weird misguided anti-boycotts.

  • That is the most unusual argument I ever read on the subject of Rome, and having read extensively on the subject, it is also the first time I ever heard such a claim.

  • Well, I think the evidence shows that Rome fell for a variety of reasons, it’s fall can’t be pegged to one specific influence. In any case all “empires” rise and fall with the tides, and as to venues, I’ve no doubt there are always lingering influences that carry over to the next up and coming regime. I will concede this, Rome was probably a very good example of why Church and State should not be linked officially.

  • “Dark Ages,” is the term I was accustomed to in the days of my grammar school education, and I still find references to it today. It is, of course a very imprecise phrase. But for all the caterwauling about Rome from the Left, about Christianity, and from the Right about Rome’s latter depravity. I simply have to shrug my shoulders and declare: When it comes to human tendencies and behavior, tomorrow is the same as yesterday and there’s nothing new under the sun. There may be periodic waves of revival, restoration, and reformation when the moral compass points north once again for a time, but the natural trend will be downward until the culmination when Jesus reclaims the world for eternity. A final thought. History and it’s interpretation is rarely examined with complete objectivity.

  • It’s the sort of thing you read about in real histories on the subject, not the usual Sunday School propaganda put out by the Family Research Council. The fact that Roman officers in the time of Christ had gay lovers away from Rome is well-document and relevant, since the “beloved” servant of the Roman centurion that Christ famously healed in the New Testament was probably the Roman officer’s gay lover in the field. Most progressive Christians accept that explanation as valid, based on available research and evidence.

  • We are basically in agreement. I don’t want to give them money either. But I think this is not going to play out the way the fundelibangelists think it will. For the few that wish to be public bigots, they may find that the cost will be much greater than they are prepared for. But frankly, I don’t care about them, and can only say two things about it:

    Be careful of what you wish for, because you may get it.

    And karma can be a real bitch

  • The issue is not the orientation. Mr. PHillips has said he provides services to anyone and sexual orientation is not relevant. Providing support for a ceremony is a conflict of religious conscience for him. A couple chosing to have a ceremony (a behavior) is their choice. Teh current law forces a person to support the choice of another person even if it is contrary to his or her personally held religious belief. This is what SCOTUS has to deconflict.

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