Cake case could put lim­its on civil rights

Jus­tices to weigh a baker’s re­buff of a gay cou­ple

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By David G. Sav­age

WASH­ING­TON — The Supreme Court said Mon­day that it would hear a ma­jor re­li­gious lib­er­ties case that could grant new free­doms to busi­nesses to dis­crim­i­nate against gays and les­bians — and po­ten­tially oth­ers — based on the faith of the own­ers.

The case in­volves the Chris­tian owner of a Colorado bak­ery who re­fused to make a wed­ding cake for a same-sex cou­ple.

The high-pro­file dis­pute pits the rights of re­li­gious in­di­vid­u­als against gay rights, two is­sues that have been at the fore­front of sev­eral re­cent Supreme Court de­ci­sions. Both are high pri­or­i­ties for Jus­tice An­thony M. Kennedy, whose vote in this mat­ter will prob­a­bly be key.

In the past, Kennedy has been both a

strong sup­porter of gay rights and a de­fender of re­li­gious lib­erty.

The Colorado case is likely to be­come one of the court’s most con­tentious cases next term. It could de­cide whether busi­ness own­ers are al­lowed to cite their re­li­gious views as a rea­son for re­fus­ing to serve gay and les­bian cou­ples. Po­ten­tially, it could sweep even more broadly, open­ing a re­li­gious ex­emp­tion to civil rights laws that could al­low dis­crim­i­na­tion against other groups.

The case, to be heard in the fall, could have a wide ef­fect in states like Cal­i­for­nia that pro­hibit dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple based on their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

No fed­eral law re­quires busi­nesses to serve all cus­tomers with­out re­gard to their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, but 21 states have “pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions” laws that pro­hibit dis­crim­i­na­tion against gays and les­bians.

States with such anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws are mostly in the West, East Coast and up­per Mid­west. No state in the South or on the Great Plains has such a law.

Colorado is one of the states whose laws pro­tect gay cou­ples, and Jack Phillips, the owner of the Mas­ter­piece Cakeshop in Lake­wood, Colo., was charged with vi­o­lat­ing it.

In 2012, he said he po­litely de­clined to make a wed­ding cake for Charles Craig and David Mullins, who had planned to marry in Mas­sachusetts but then have a re­cep­tion in their home state of Colorado. They lodged a com­plaint with the state civil rights com­mis­sion.

The com­mis­sion ruled that Phillips’ re­fusal to make the wed­ding cake vi­o­lated the pro­vi­sion in the state’s anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion law that says busi­nesses open to the pub­lic may not deny ser­vice to cus­tomers based on their race, re­li­gion, gen­der or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. The panel or­dered him to pro­vide wed­ding cakes on an equal ba­sis for same-sex cou­ples.

Phillips ap­pealed to the Supreme Court, ar­gu­ing he de­served a re­li­gious ex­emp­tion based on the 1st Amend­ment’s guar­an­tee of free­dom of speech and free ex­er­cise of re­li­gion. His lawyers say he re­fused to com­ply with the com­mis­sion rul­ing while his ap­peal pro­ceeded.

They de­scribed Phillips as a “cake artist” who will “not cre­ate cakes cel­e­brat­ing any mar­riage that is con­trary to his un­der­stand­ing of bi­b­li­cal teach­ing.”

They also said he has re­fused to make cakes to cel­e­brate Hal­loween or cre­ate baked goods that have “an­tiAmer­i­can or anti-fam­ily themes” or carry pro­fane mes­sages.

“They said you have to cre­ate cakes for same-sex cou­ples, so he re­moved him­self from the mar­ket. He chose to stop mak­ing wed­ding cakes,” said Jeremy Tedesco, a lawyer for the Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom, who ap­pealed on Phillips’ be­half.

Lawyers for the state com­mis­sion and the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union urged the court to turn down the ap­peal in Mas­ter­piece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Com­mis­sion. They said it could open a “gap­ing hole” in civil rights laws if busi­ness own­ers could cite their re­li­gious be­liefs as a valid ba­sis for deny­ing ser­vice to cer­tain cus­tomers.

“This has al­ways been about more than a cake,” Mullins said in a state­ment. “Busi­nesses should not be al­lowed to vi­o­late the law and dis­crim­i­nate against us be­cause of who we are and who we love.”

James Esseks, di­rec­tor of the ACLU’s LGBT Project said the “law is squarely on David and Char­lie’s side be­cause when busi­nesses are open to the pub­lic, they’re sup­posed to be open to ev­ery­one.”

But Jus­tice Kennedy, who wrote the court’s opin­ion up­hold­ing same-sex mar­riages, has also joined the court’s con­ser­va­tives in up­hold­ing re­li­gious ex­emp­tions. He joined the 5-4 ma­jor­ity in the Hobby Lobby case, which said the Chris­tian fam­ily who owned a chain of craft stores could refuse to pro­vide their em­ploy­ees the full range of con­tra­cep­tives called for by the fed­eral health­care law.

Pub­lic opin­ion polls show that most Amer­i­cans sup­port the rights of same-sex cou­ples to marry and that sup­port has steadily in­creased, even among groups who have been op­posed in the past, no­tably evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians.

Ad­vo­cates on the Chris­tian right, how­ever, say the gov­ern­ment should not force believers to en­dorse mar­riages that con­flict with their faith.

Two years ago, the jus­tices turned down a sim­i­lar ap­peal from a wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher in New Mex­ico. Since then, the is­sue has arisen in sev­eral other states whose laws for­bid dis­crim­i­na­tion based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

The ap­peal in the Colorado case has been pend­ing since Jan­uary, sug­gest­ing the jus­tices were closely split on what to do. Jus­tice Neil M. Gor­such, a Colorado na­tive and a well-known de­fender of re­li­gious lib­erty claims, joined the court in April.

It takes only four votes to hear the case, and on the last day be­fore the sum­mer re­cess, the jus­tices an­nounced they would hear the is­sue dur­ing the fall.

Separately Mon­day, the court in a 6-3 rul­ing struck down an Arkansas law re­gard­ing birth cer­tifi­cates that pre­vented adding the names of both par­ents in a same-sex union. The law called for in­clud­ing only the bi­o­log­i­cal par­ent.

The court, in an un­signed opin­ion, said this rule de­nied the same-sex cou­ple the same rights as op­po­site­sex cou­ples and was there­fore un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The court noted that in Arkansas if an op­po­site-sex cou­ple used ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion with an anony­mous sperm donor to have a child, the mother’s hus­band in such a case would be listed on the birth cer­tifi­cate.

Jus­tices Clarence Thomas, Sa­muel A. Al­ito Jr. and Gor­such dis­sented in that case, Pa­van vs. Smith.

Bren­nan Lins­ley As­so­ci­ated Press

CHARLES CRAIG, left, and David Mullins, shown in 2014, com­plained to Colorado of­fi­cials when a Chris­tian baker re­fused to sell them a wed­ding cake.

Bren­nan Lins­ley As­so­ci­ated Press

BAKER Jack Phillips says he deserves a re­li­gious ex­emp­tion from a Colorado dis­crim­i­na­tion law.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.