We all should be concerned and a bit alarmed that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the much-followed “cakeshop” case, siding with the bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012.
In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court justices split 7-2.
Yes, the ruling affirms the validity of anti-discrimination laws that protect classes of persons when they seek goods and services on the same terms as others in the public marketplace. “As a general rule,” the court stated, religious or philosophical objections to other people “do not allow business owners” or “economic or societal actors to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services” or to “put up signs” excluding them. However, the ruling rejected the central premise of the cake shop and the U.S. Department of Justice, both of which sought to use religion and free speech to justify discrimination against a gay couple.
It is rather ironic that the cake shop and baker technically won, but only because the Supreme Court ruled that they had not received “neutral and respectful consideration” of their arguments by the state commission that heard and decided their case.
It would seem this limited ruling actually provides no basis for this cake shop or other entities covered by anti-discrimination laws to refuse goods and services in the name of free speech or religion.
Fortunately, the court was mindful of how far adrift we could go if every individual could apply his or her religious beliefs to every commercial transaction.
What the court’s ruling will mean for future cases that could pit LGBTQ rights against religious freedom rights remains to be seen.