USA top court rules for baker in gay wedding cake case

A wedding cake with a gay couple is seen in this file

A wedding cake with a gay couple is seen in this file

Every Supreme Court term, there is at least one case that gets people's blood up.

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of baker Jack Phillips in a 7-2 decision, after the couple filed charges against him in 2012.

At stake in the case, said the Conference of Catholics Bishops, was "the freedom to live according to one's religious beliefs in daily life".

"This little case was shaping up to become a vehicle that would finally resolve a cardinal question of constitutional law: whether or not the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause could be used to undermine decades of nondiscrimination law and subject gay people to the constant threat of humiliation in the public marketplace", Stern wrote. He runs his business guided by religious principles, closing on Sunday and refusing to make cakes containing alcohol or celebrating Halloween.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

"I don't want to be forced to create art, any of the things I do for an event, that goes against my faith", he said. For example, he refused to bake cakes that celebrated divorces, cakes that were infused with alcohol, cakes with obscene language or artwork, or cakes celebrating same sex weddings.

For a half-century, the high court has upheld public accommodations laws against challenges brought by people who claim that their sincerely held beliefs - religious and otherwise - prevent them from serving customers on an equal basis.

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In ruling in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the court declined to make sweeping rulings about the propriety of such laws as CADA generally, but instead focused on what it considered shortcomings in the Civil Rights Commission's deliberative processes. "The reason and motive for the baker's refusal were based on his honest religious beliefs and convictions", Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "The court was right to condemn that", said Kristen Waggoner, the Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel who argued Mr Phillips' case.

He appealed the state's decision, but lost in the Colorado courts.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.

This court specifically this case does not decide all other pending cases involving the conflict between religious views and gay marriage, and they will have to be further hammered out in the courts.

Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, was told by a Colorado Civil Rights Commission that he can not refuse to bake cakes for events that violate his conscience, even though he had a long history of selling items in his cakeshop to anyone who walked through the door. The state can't use its own assessment of offensiveness to justify the disparity between those cases and Phillips' case, Kennedy said. Justice Kennedy was quick to say the court's ruling was made on the specifics of this case, and that future similar cases may have the opposite outcome.

Or, as Justice Elena Kagan put it in her concurring decision, the government "can treat a baker who discriminates based on sexual orientation differently from a baker who does not" but only if the state's actions "are not infected by religious hostility or bias".

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