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Free Speech and Religious Belief at issue in US Supreme Court case about a cake

In December, the Supreme Court began oral arguments in a Colorado case, where a shop owner denied service to a same-sex couple looking to purchase a cake. As the arguments ensued, it began clear that the justices were sharply divided and highlighted many of the issues, on both sides, in the case: religious beliefs and anti-discrimination laws.

The Colorado case dates back to 2012 when a gay couple, Charlie Craig and his partner David Mullins, walked into a cake shop requesting a cake to celebrate their same-sex marriage; their wedding was to be held in Massachusetts, but their cake was for a reception they were holding in Colorado for their friends and family. The owner of the shop, a religious man named Jack Phillips, declined to make them a cake due to his Christian values.

The rules governed by anti-discrimination agencies in Colorado suggest that Phillips’ refusal to provide a cake for a same-sex marriage celebration violated laws and that, legally, he had no right, by free speech, to turn down the cake request by the two men. Phillips was informed that if he was to make wedding cakes for heterosexual weddings, he is also legally required to do so for weddings where the two parties are of the same sex.



As the arguments concluded it seemed likely that Phillips would receive some relief from the justices. The court was divided in an expected way; the liberal justices identified the fact that a ruling for baker Phillips could have a negative impact on laws against a religious discrimination, as well as racial and gender discrimination.

Justice Elena Kagan exemplified the problem on a larger scale; this was done by shedding light on whether a  hairstylist or a make-up artist could cite his or her religious beliefs as the basis to refuse to provide services for a same-sex couple. Kagan said that by making a cake, for example, or doing someone’s makeup is not widely understood as “speech”.

Conservatives sided with Baker, arguing that a ruling against him would infringe upon his religious rights. Baker is an extremely conservative Christian, who has previously noted that he refuses to make any cake that might conflict with his religious beliefs; Phillips has declined to make Halloween cakes, as well as cakes with anti-American or sex-related themes and even cakes containing alcohol.

Justice Samuel Alito shed light on the same-sex marriage laws in Colorado at the time of the event, that Craig and Mullins could not get married or have their marriage recognized by the state of Colorado, but regardless Phillips could get in trouble for refusing to make them a cake to celebrate the said wedding.

While many arguments were made for and against Phillips refusal to make the cake, a decision from the court is not expected until the summer. This case is the court’s first significant issue of gay rights since the 2015 ruling by the Constitution which requires all states to recognize same-sex marriage. To read more about the case visit the Supreme Court blog here.

If you have questions about a similar case in Massachusetts or are facing any criminal charge, feel free to contact us at DelSignore Law today. We offer free and confidential consultations of your case and are happy to discuss the many legal options available to you.

As Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyers, we handle a variety of criminal cases across the state. You can read our criminal defense wins here.


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