The Masterpiece Cakeshop Case: What You Need to Know

Five years ago, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop, a Lakewood, Colorado, bakery to purchase a cake for their wedding reception. But the bakery’s owner refused to serve them solely because they’re a same-sex couple.

Colorado courts found that the bakery discriminated against Dave and Charlie, violating a state law that says businesses open to the public can’t turn away customers based on sexual orientation. Now, the bakery is asking for a “constitutional exemption” —permission to violate the state law based on the owner’s objection to serving gay people.

Here are three things to know about the case, which will be heard by the Court on December 5.

Is the bakery’s argument new? 

No. In the 1960s, Piggie Park barbecue restaurant argued that its owner’s religious beliefs meant it could refuse to serve Black customers. In the 1970s and 1980s, schools claimed that they should be allowed to pay women less than men based on the belief that men should be the head of the household. Time and again, courts have recognized that religious views, no matter how deeply felt, don’t entitle any of us to discriminate. The same is true today.

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Does this violate the bakery's First Amendment rights?

No. The Colorado anti-discrimination law doesn’t tell the bakery how to make its cakes. What it says is that if the bakery chooses to sell cakes, it can’t refuse to sell them to certain people based on their sexual orientation. The ACLU is proud to defend the First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion. But religious freedom doesn’t give anyone the right to discriminate. If it did, any business would be free to discriminate against almost any of us — members of minority faiths, women, racial minorities, LGBT people — solely based on the owner’s views.

What’s at stake in this case?

This fall the Supreme Court will decide whether businesses that open their doors to the public have a constitutional right to discriminate.

People have deeply held beliefs about all kinds of things. If those beliefs gave anyone the right to discriminate, a tailor shop could refuse to alter a business suit for women, or a bus company could refuse to drive people of different faiths to work. If the bakery has a constitutional right to discriminate, then today it’s Dave and Charlie, tomorrow it could be you, your family members, your friends and your loved ones. Any of us could be turned away simply because of who we are.

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Kurt

Right on! If your religion requires you to be an ass, you need a new religion.

Anonymous

This is clearly a misguided article. This case has never been about discrimination, but about the ability of the lefts thought police to control the lives of everyone wanting to conduct business. This isn't at all equal to the Jim Crow era for a couple simple reasons. 1. The service can easily be gotten from a the vast majority of like businesses in an easy manner with little or no actual injury to the one trying to get the services. Not something that was true in the 60s in the south. 2. This isn't about desciminating against a person, but rather an act. This person could purchase any standard item in te shop happily, but not for the purpose of a same sex wedding, which is an act and not a person.
If a guy or lady decided to have their own prostitution business in Nevada, are they required to serve both sexes at risk of a suite by the ACLU? If a preacher decides to conduct wedding ceremonies are they also required to do so for same sex couples, muslims and other religion weddings even if they are a Christian preacher (not directly affiliated with a church). Should a homosexual cake decorator be able to say no to making a cake because it quotes the Bible about homosexuality? Religion is a protected class as well. You need to weigh interests and the cake isn't a high enough interest to merit the removal of religious freedom at risk of not participating in the commerce of society.

Anonymous

1. "The service can easily be gotten from a the vast majority of like businesses".
- This is simply not true. Not only are there a limited number of such businesses in most areas (especially rural ones), in many areas it's likely that owners may have similar beliefs. The end result is that his minority is left with little to no choice about where they're served. The related argument that those inclined can open their own cake shops is disingenuous, and essentially boils down to the idea that they should have separate (but equal) facilities. The south certainly has certainly changed, but not that much.
2. "This isn't about desciminating (sic) against a person, but rather an act."
- The easiest analogy is inter-racial weddings. It's clear they can't refuse service to someone due to race, but what if they oppose an inter-racial marriage? They could have chosen to marry someone of their own race, just like a gay person could have chosen to marry someone of the opposite gender.
3. All this said, the line I hope and expect to be drawn is on the specific artistry involved. Given that they can't discriminate based on an individual's (insert category) an artist or crafts-person shouldn't have to create something that goes against their beliefs. Beyond that transaction, however, they have no say in how what they create is used once sold. The test is this: If a work would be acceptable to create for one class of individual, it cannot be refused to another. This leaves some wiggle room. The baker can refuse to make a cake that says "Happy gay wedding to gay Bob and gay Joe", regardless of the buyer. Minus such messages or explicit symbolism, however, there should be no issue selling such a cake to anyone.
- A similar message, "Happy wedding to Bob and Joe", creates an amusing implied gender situation.
- Getting a birthday cake labeled "Happy Birthday Hitler" is another perspective. One could get into trouble for making a cake for a dog ironically named Hitler, but not a neo-nazi.

Anonymous

In reply to the first comment on Kurt's post, I grew up in a very right-wing, conservative, Christian family who owns a small business for a living and despite the fact that I am a bisexual atheist, I still hold true to many of those conservative values that I have grown up with. If there was one thing that my mom taught me, is that unless the people begin demanding that you serve them, there is no reason not to just for the simple fact that they are different in some way shape or form. As a business owner, you can refuse service to anyone as long as the grounds for the refusal are sound. The grounds for refusal, in this case, are not sound. When service is refused in a public place, it should be for the fact that the person is being disruptive to other customers, demanding that service be given, that the customer steals product, etc. No customer should be turned away simply because they are different. And as for there being multiple other places to find the same thing, there not always is and in this case that is the bakery they chose most likely because they loved the cakes that the owner made. And as for religion being protected, it is, but that does not mean that you force your religion on another. I'm an atheist that came from a very Christian family. I'm not going to shove the idea that I don't believe in a god down their throats just because that is what I believe. I will respect their choices as long as they respect mine.
But I believe that what is not being mentioned here is the fact that, yes religion is a choice, but being gay or bisexual is sometimes a choice but more often simply biological. Most of us don't choose to be gay or straight or bisexual or transgender, etc. we just are, and you can't change genetics.
As for all of this - "If a guy or lady decided to have their own prostitution business in Nevada, are they required to serve both sexes at risk of a suite by the ACLU? If a preacher decides to conduct wedding ceremonies are they also required to do so for same sex couples, muslims and other religion weddings even if they are a Christian preacher (not directly affiliated with a church). Should a homosexual cake decorator be able to say no to making a cake because it quotes the Bible about homosexuality?" - another thing I learned working in retail my whole life, is the fact that you may not like it, but if you own a public business, you are there to serve the public in all of its glory. This means that you are supposed to do your job, whatever that may be, whether you like it or not. And I know for a fact people in retail don't always like their jobs; retail can be hell at times. But some people have a bad day and that can cause you to snap at customers but to fully refuse service to someone just because of who they are is illegal in several states and D.C. and discrimination just shouldn't be done in the first place.
So if a gay couple wants their wedding presided over by a Christian preacher (and I do know people that are not straight and are still Christian), or if a straight couple asks for a Biblical verse that speaks out against homosexuals and the baker is a homosexual, then the baker should be honored that the couple chose him/her to make the cake becuase the couple thinks that this baker is very good at what they do and your wedding is one of the biggest days of your likfe and you want everything to be perfect.
So no, not all of us are trying to shove left-wing, LGBTQ+ values down everyone's throats. We just want to be seen as other human beings and not as "Oh, look she's bisexual. She's very bad, stay very far away." We are just as human an anyone else on the face of God's green Earth.
End Rant

Spiderman TUba

Anonymous #1: No one is controlling anyone's life. The baker is free to find another profession if they don't want to bake cakes.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

"Let them eat cock": Marie Antoinette circa 1788.

Alisa Peskin

Please make the argument for me that explains the private business owners ability to discriminate against their employees (refusing to offer birth control based on religious standing) vs. its customers. Thanks!

Joseph

There really should be no ability to do either.

Anonymous

here's an argument for this specific case:

-Baking is an art form to some, especially to those who are in the wedding cake business.
-The bakery owner is religious. Within his religion, he believes that marriage between a same sex couple violates the sanctity of marriage.
-Do you force him to bake a cake, his art (thus, his form of self-expression), that goes directly against his religious beliefs?
-Do you force him to partake in a ceremony (i.e spend hours baking a cake for) that he morally objects to? How can you force someone to do something for someone (and spend hours doing it) that they believe is inherently wrong?
-What would that cake have said? "Congrats", most likely? Can you force the bakery owner to congratulate something that his religion tells him is a sin?

The problem here is that this is a clear violation of religious freedom. That store owner is a PRIVATE business owner. He shouldn't be forced to bake a cake for a ceremony that his religion tells him is wrong. This would be different if the gay couple were just trying to purchase any old baked good and he denied them that-that's discriminatory. However, the big difference here is that he was refusing to participate in a PRACTICE and not refusing the PEOPLE themselves. The baker did not want to participate in a gay wedding and that IS completely his right.

Just a disclaimer too, I am not religious and I am totally pro-gay marriage. However, I believe all rights deserved to be defended. You have the right to religious freedom as you do marriage. You do not have the right to force anyone to accept your marriage nor believe your religion. The gay couple can find another baker. The private business owner can find other customers. We have to learn to co-exist and stop forcing our own beliefs upon others. I am saddened the ACLU would not defend the baker in this case, it seems pretty clear that he was just exercising his religious freedom (which includes his freedom to not bake a damn cake for a ceremony that goes directly against his religion).

Anonymous2

Well said Anonymous. I think in many left leaning thoughts, they fail to realize there are two interests here that need to be weighted against each other. On the one hand, you wouldn't advocated that a person with Religious requirements that would not allow them to draw blood from someone start up an ambulance service and somehow refuse care based on that service. In a weighing of interests, it becomes clear that there are no alternatives for the "customer" and that their need outweighs that of the Ambulance worker if such a position existed. The other side with a Priest being forced to conduct Wedding ceremony was also given and makes perfect sense as well. In this case the reason for bringing the suit against the baker is to force thought upon this baker who would be at risk of losing his ability to engage in commerce. Because of the easily available alternatives, your position makes perfect sense. I think the SC will find some type of Reasonable Person and weighing of interests in siding with the Baker.

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