Masterpiece Cakeshop V. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

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Jack Phillips, owner, and baker at Masterpiece Cakeshop believed that it was his First Amendment right to refuse any gay couple a wedding cake because it was against his religious beliefs. Further, he felt that by participating in making a cake for a gay marriage would be an act of complicity, as it would be seen as him condoning such a marriage which is strictly the opposite of what his beliefs are, that homosexuality is wrong, and is considered a sin in his religious practice.

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Mr. Phillips had turned down several other gay couples, for strictly designing and baking their wedding cakes. He also turned down people who requested him to bake their adult themed cakes. Jack Phillips also declines to bake Halloween cakes, on the basis of his first amendment right to freedom of religion. He wasn’t targeting this couple, on the basis of their homosexuality, as evidenced by his willingness to sell all baked goods to homosexuals with the exception of, same-sex wedding cakes, Halloween themed cakes, and adult themed cakes.

Jack Phillips had refused to bake wedding cakes for several other gay couples. prior to this particular refusal of a gay wedding cake. “Mr. Phillips turned them down, saying he would not use his talents to convey a message of support for same-sex marriage at odds with his religious faith.” (Liptak, 4 June 2018). Mr. Phillips was exercising his First Amendment Right to Freedom of Religion. To Jack Phillips’ surprise and dismay, this particular same-sex couple that he refused to bake a wedding cake for, reacted quite defensively, which differed from other same-sex couples he had previously refused, who had calmly accepted his explanation of refusal to bake a same-sex wedding cake, based on his religious beliefs. “Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig said they were humiliated by Mr. Phillips’s refusal to serve them, and they filed a complaint with Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission, saying that Mr. Phillips had violated a state law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.” (Liptak, 4 June 2018). Mullins and Craig won in the Colorado Court of Appeals. Apparently, the court found that Jack Phillips First Amendment Rights hadn’t been violated. Craig and Mullins felt their Civil Rights were being violated, and they were being discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. They felt like they should be treated equally regardless of being in a same-sex relationship. Although Craig and Mullins won in the Colorado Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court ruled in Jack Phillips favor. “ The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who had refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple. “ (Liptak, 4 June 2018). Justice Anthony Kennedy believed that the Colorado Courts and Civil Rights Commission were being hostile toward Phillips sincerity about his religious beliefs, by comparing his devotion and religious morals to similar defences used to defend the Holocaust and slavery.

Justice Anthony Kennedy made the point that the court was supposed to be coming from a place of neutrality, which was absent. Further, the Colorado courts were considering the violation of the same-sex couples civil rights, while completely negating the bakers rights to free speech and religious freedom as his Constitutional right afforded him by the First Amendment. “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Elena Kagan and Neil M. Gorsuch joined Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas voted with the majority but would have adopted broader reasons. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, dissented.” (Liptak, 4 June 2018). There was a majority vote of seven, in favor of Phillips, the baker; versus a dissent of two, in favor of Craig and Mullins, the same-sex couple. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a huge advocate for gay and lesbian civil rights, as well as a promoter of free speech, was tied on both arguments, and was looking for some middle ground. This verdict doesn’t determine that all businesses can deny services based on sexual orientation. Both sides were valid, but what sealed the deal was the way the Colorado Courts treated Phillips in an unacceptable manner, by ignoring his right to Freedom of Religion and expressing hostility when he had a sincere and deep religious faith, which they neglected to acknowledge and in essence were violating his civil rights. The Constitutional rights involved in this case, specifically the First Amendment, include Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech (expression), which are key in this case. “…the First Amendment denies the government the power to prohibit “the free exercise” of religion; the states and the national government cannot forbid people to follow a religion of their choice, even if politicians and judges think the religion is misguided, blasphemous, or otherwise inappropriate.

You are free to create your own religion and recruit followers to it (subject to the U.S. Supreme Court deeming it a religion), even if both society and government disapprove of its tenets. That said, the way you practice your religion may be regulated if it impinges on the rights of others.” (Krutz, Page 3177). Let me begin by identifying that even if justices believe that your religion is inappropriate or misguided, it’s not their place to be anything other than neutral in a court of law. That being said, the result was that the Colorado courts found that the bakery owner, Jack Phillips had discriminated against Craig and Mullins, when he refused to make a wedding cake for the gay couple. Phillips was not having it, and decided to appeal the ruling. Mr. Phillips was so determined to win his case based on his unfair verdict in the lower court that he took it upon himself to go all the way to the Supreme Court, where he believed he would have a fair trial. Jack Phillips won his case, where his Constitutional Rights were finally being addressed, as detailed in the First Amendment of the Constitution, specifically where it says; “First Amendment; Right to freedoms of religion and speech; right to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances” (Krutz, Page 3265) Justice Anthony Kennedy has a strong belief in Freedom of Speech, and also has a strong belief in the Civil Rights of gays and lebians. “Political Spectrum; Moderate Ideas – Many people have political views that fall between or area a mix of left & right wing views” ( Scarffe, Slide #11).

He made it clear that in this particular case he agreed with both sides equally, but in this case he used his best judgement and determined that this was the best way to give both parties fair and equal representation. He made it clear to the LGBTQ community that this would not be the verdict with all cases, and this this an isolated case. Mr. Phillips was fairly represented at the Supreme Court. The seven Justice majority made a compromise, that was not intended to undermine the LGBTQ community. One of the basic principles of Liberalism is tolerance, and the belief in equality for all, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. “Belief in pro-active government to improve welfare, civil rights and tolerance for change. Support for a pro-active government is tied specifically to improving/expanding equality.”(Scarffe, Slide #2). If everyone involved in the Supreme Court’s decision had entirely liberal viewpoints, it would have leaned toward the left, along with Sonia Sotomayar, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, because they believe that regardless of religious preferences, people should always receive equal treatment, no matter the sexual orientation of a couple. Statements that offended Jack Phillips, should not have changed the the outcome according to the Democrats, and the same-sex couple should have received their wedding cake.

Conservatives tend to have traditional attitudes and values, especially in regard to politics and religion. “Belief in limited role of government (not pro- active) especially as related to economic matters. Support for traditional roles and lifestyles. Cautious response/attitude to change. May support a more active role for government in .maintaining traditional values.”(Scarffe, Slide #2). The court’s decision if seen from a conservative perspective would be in line with the actual decision, and probably all of the Justices would have been on the side of Jack Phillips, because he has traditional values, that are in alignment with conservatives. Conservatives tend to interpret the Constitution as it was written, whereas the progressive liberals tend to adjust their interpretation of the Constitution according to the times we live in today. Equal human rights and opportunities are highly desirable, especially for today’s millennials.

Socialism is, “Commitment to Equality & Fairness Belief in active role for government, especially over major sectors & resources. Belief that key resources belong to all and should not be owned by just a few. Railroads Coal, Steel, Gold. Does not preclude private ownership of non-essential resources. “ (Scarffe, Slide #4). If the case was seen from a Socialist viewpoint, the outcome would have been in favor of the same-sex couple. All of the Justices would have sided with the fact that all people deserve to be served by businesses equally regardless of their sexual orientation. Socialism in this case would have aided in providing equality for the LGBTQ community, and would have given them the assurance that they will always be provided with the same rights and resources as the rest of the population. 

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Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. (2020, Jan 29). Retrieved from