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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Starr

Exactly

TT Tom

I think if Jack Phillips didn't bake them a wedding cake because they are gay would be very horrible, but that is not the case in this situation.The couple should have understand that it was against his religion and if they didn't like that he couldn't make them a wedding cake they should go to another cake shop that can. It's not right for Jack Phillips to loose his bakery over a wedding cake he couldn't make because it was against his religion.

WillyWonka

Jack Phillips even still offered to make a birthday cake, brownies, shower cakes, cookies, or anything else in his bakery, just not a wedding cake for the couple. In my opinion, I think Jack Phillips should be allowed to make wedding cakes again. He shouldn't have been "harassed" for having a religious belief against gay. It is in his religion and Jack says he respects the couple but, God designed marriage as man and woman. I think that the couple David and Charlie, should have gone to another bakery for their cake, instead of making a big fuss. People have different beliefs and shouldn't have to change their life style because others don't approve of it.

ScholarConstit...

two sides of same coin - business illegally refused to do business with a gay couple or business operated by an artist refused to be compelled to apply his unique creative talent and skill to create a work of art celebratory to an activity contrary to his religious convictions. So, unless a bus driver is an artist providing a unique skill to drive customers to their destination, your assertion that SC decision in baker's favor will open floodgates to all businesses to discriminate against gays is incorrect.

Anonymous

So, sincerely, should a Black printer be required to print posters for a White Supremacist's rally? I mean, their normal and usual business is printing posters.

Another Anonymous

Should a Baptist Preacher be forced to Marry a Gay Couple? It's also his normal and usual business (assuming he doesn't have an active congregational leadship position at the time)?
Should a prostitute in Nevada (assuming they have the same law) be required to have sex with someone Gay? I mean, he is selling sex and it is the law?

Rainbowmom

So these bakers refuse service to a couple who (according to the bakers' deeply held religious convictions) are living in sin. This makes me wonder: Do they have careful records of checking to make sure that every potential customer . . .

. . . isn't Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, etc.? because "You shall have no other gods before Me."
. . . doesn't have any statues? because "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything."
. . . does not drop the "GD" bomb? because "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God."
. . . does NOTHING but worship (ahem, no soccer practice!) on Sunday? because "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy."
. . . does not neglect or shove their elderly parents into a distant nursing home? because "Honor your father and your mother."
. . . has never killed anyone? because "You shall not murder."
. . . is completely faithful to his or her spouse? because "You shall not commit adultery."
. . . has no theft warrants or convictions, or doesn't cheat on taxes? because "You shall not steal."
. . . never lied about someone? because "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."
. . . isn't the jealous type? because "You shall not covet your neighbor's house, wife, or property."

ALL OF THESE ARE SINS ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE. And all of these are things commonly practiced by heterosexual Christians at various rates and in various ways every single day. I would not be surprised to find at least 30 percent or more of the heterosexual couples who come to them for baby shower or gender reveal cakes are not married ("gasp"), or that 75 percent or more of their heterosexual wedding cakes are made for couples who ARE ALREADY LIVING TOGETHER ("shriek").

But you know what is not on this list of Christian No-No's? You guessed it: a His & His (or Hers & Hers) wedding cake.

Nevertheless, if these super pious bakers have combed through the scriptures and found a rebuke of homosexuality (in the same place that says cussing out your parents, committing adultery, and taking the Lord's name in vain are all crimes punishable by death . . . and the same passage that lists the ACTUAL CASH VALUE of a human life), they might want at least to make sure they are not cherry picking which sins they abhor and cannot "participate" in . . . and which sins they apparently can turn a blind eye to.

Just saying.

Or they could realize that religious scriptures are a mixture of inspired writing, historical record, codified cultural practices, and outright balderdash concocted by someone in power to sway or subdue the public into submission. And then they could use their own common sense, and maybe some good old fashioned prayer to the Almighty One, to help them discern the difference.

Anonymous

You started out with the wrong understanding. They are not refusing service because the couple is living in sin. Everyone is living in sin! They are refusing he couple because they are being asked to support a sinful activity. Again, it has nothing at all to do with the couple current state of sin, but rather the baker being asked to support a sinful "Act". In that manner it would not be important if the Baker served a Hindu or Buddist, but rather if they stated on the cake that Buddah is the only true god or something like that. It wouldn't be important if the baker served someone that was committing adultery, but rather if he was willing to bake a cake for a celebration of an pro-adultery event. It's not really hard to see the difference if you try because these same bakers don't work on Sunday and refuse to make Halloween cakes as well.

Jay Wilson

Employment Division v. Smith

“....The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind -- ranging from compulsory military service to the payment of taxes to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”

- Antonin Scalia

Anonymous

Race should not be compared to gay rights in any way shape or form. They are very different issues that can not be validly used to support/oppose one another.

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