Published: Wed, December 06, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

US Supreme Court appears divided in 'gay wedding cake' case

US Supreme Court appears divided in 'gay wedding cake' case

Both sides agree that a ruling in favor of Phillips would also open the door to claims from others who engage in professional services - florists, for example - that their religious liberty exempts them from public accommodation laws applicable to other businesses.

"Tolerance is essential in a society", said Justice Kennedy, adding the state of Colorado was intolerant to the Christian baker, who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The Trump administration filed a brief in support of Phillips, who has said he believes marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and Solicitor General Noel Francisco made an appearance on his behalf.

Kennedy wondered if that showed a "hostility to religion". Phillips has previously said he also won't create cakes designed to celebrate Halloween.

Phillips, 61, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, is fighting for the rights of "creative artists" to choose what they will sell.

As anyone might expect, Mullins and Craig see the case through an altogether extraordinary focal point: separation.

All three sat in the third row of the court's public section for the roughly 85-minute oral argument inside the packed courtroom.

It isn't every day that a cake triggers a Supreme Court case, which makes the dispute Supreme Court justices will begin hearing today particularly interesting. Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked.

Lydia Macy 17 left and Mira Gottlieb 16 both of Berkeley Calif. rally outside of the Supreme Court which is hearing the 'Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission' today Tue
Supreme Court hears same-sex wedding cake case: Free speech vs. civil rights

A hair stylist? A makeup artist?

More generally, Justice Stephen Breyer said, "What is the line?" But there's more to the MasterpieceCakeshopcase now before the Supreme Court than just cake. The couple said the refusal amounts to discrimination.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, was judged through multiple phases of litigation to have violated Colorado's anti-discrimination law. The couple was planning to marry in MA and hold a reception in Colorado.

SCOTUS rejected an appeal of an earlier Texas Supreme Court decision, which undermined marriage equality by denying same-sex couples the rights and privileges they supposedly were entitled to following the landmark 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision. That signaled a potential compromise in the case - sending it back to Colorado courts to decide whether Phillips was treated unfairly.

Chief Justice John Roberts pressed both Cole and Yarger on whether a Roman Catholic legal services agency that provides free aid would have to take up a case involving a same-sex couple despite the religious opposition to gay marriage. In 2015, it extended same-sex marriage nationwide. So when gay marriage opponents came out of the woodwork, threatening to vote the all-Republican court off the bench if it didn't reconsider its decision - their argument being this was a great opportunity to restrict the effects of Obergefell - the Texas court took note.

"It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, honest conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned", Kennedy wrote in 2015. In 2016 the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the US Supreme Court decision "did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons".

Over the past three months, the high court has been flooded with almost 100 "friend of the court" briefs, equally divided between the two sides. Colorado is one of 21 states to have a statewide law banning discrimination against LGBTQ people in public accomodations, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission found Phillips' refusal to bake a violation of this law, prompting Phillips' case to move to the Supreme Court via appeal in June.

But Craig and Mullins have argued that a cake is just a cake, and not a form of artistic expression.

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