Court to take same-sex wed­ding cake case.

Chris­tians sup­port rights of bak­ers

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALEX SWOYER

The Supreme Court agreed Mon­day to take up a high-pro­file case to de­cide whether a Chris­tian baker, cit­ing per­sonal re­li­gious be­liefs, can refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wed­ding.

The case, which stems from a dis­pute be­tween Mas­ter­piece Cakeshop and the Colorado Civil Rights Com­mis­sion, will be heard dur­ing the next term, which be­gins in Oc­to­ber.

Chris­tian con­ser­va­tives have been hop­ing the court would take up the case and are seek­ing a rul­ing in fa­vor of the baker to set new ground for re­li­gious free­dom.

A Colorado court has ruled against the baker.

The case had been on the Supreme Court’s list for po­ten­tial cases since Septem­ber, and the de­lay had prompted spec­u­la­tion about what was go­ing on be­hind the scenes.

Josh Black­man, a law pro­fes­sor at South Texas Col­lege of Law, said he was sur­prised that the court de­cided to take up the case and pre­dicted a huge im­pact next year.

“Some­thing must have shifted. Maybe there are now votes to re­verse,” he said.

The case is be­ing viewed as the next ma­jor fol­low-up to the court’s 2015 rul­ing in the Oberge­fell case, which es­tab­lished a na­tional right to same-sex mar­riage on par with the long-stand­ing un­der­stand­ing of tra­di­tional mar­riage.

Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom, which is rep­re­sent­ing the baker, said peo­ple should be able to live out their faith with­out fear of gov­ern­ment pun­ish­ment. It ar­gues that the baker deserves pro­tec­tion un­der the First Amend­ment’s pro­tec­tion of free­dom of speech.

“These are cus­tom-de­signed artis­tic projects that ex­press a vi­sion,” said Ni­colle Martin, an at­tor­ney al­lied with Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom. “Artis­tic ex­pres­sion has al­ways en­joyed broad pro­tec­tion un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

But Louise Melling, deputy le­gal di­rec­tor for the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, which is rep­re­sent­ing the same-sex cou­ple, David Mullins and Char­lie Craig, who ini­ti­ated the com­plaint against the baker, says the First Amend­ment doesn’t pro­vide a li­cense to dis­crim­i­nate.

“It’s a ques­tion of whether David and Char­lie … and oth­ers through­out the coun­try are go­ing to be pro­tected from dis­crim­i­na­tion,” said Ms. Melling. “They were turned away be­cause of who they are — a same-sex cou­ple.”

The case’s long wait led a num­ber of court watch­ers to con­clude that the jus­tices were wait­ing for Jus­tice Neil M. Gor­such to join the court, pro­vid­ing the fourth vote in fa­vor of hear­ing the case.

John El­wood, a lawyer who has been mon­i­tor­ing the case as it has been relisted by the jus­tices for con­sid­er­a­tion more than a dozen times, said the de­lay sig­naled a strongly di­vided court.

“They wouldn’t have spent so long ex­chang­ing drafts of opin­ions within the court if they didn’t have strong views on the is­sues,” Mr. El­wood said.

Barry Lynn, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Amer­i­cans United for Sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State, said the even­tual rul­ing will likely come down to Jus­tice An­thony M. Kennedy’s swing vote.

“Jus­tice Kennedy has al­ways been ex­tremely sen­si­tive to mak­ing any group of Amer­i­cans feel like out­siders,” Mr. Lynn said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mas­ter­piece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips puts the fin­ish­ing touches on a cake. The Supreme Court will de­cide next term whether he has the right to refuse to make a wed­ding cake for a same-sex cou­ple, based on his re­li­gious be­liefs.

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