In 2012, recently-engaged gay couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig, pictured below, visited the Masterpiece Cakeshop bakery near Denver, Colorado, USA. The two hoped to place an order for a wedding cake for their upcoming nuptials in the state of Massachusetts.
However, when the couple asked bakery owner Jack Phillips if they could order a cake for their wedding, they were turned away, with Phillips stating, “I’m sorry, guys, I can’t do that” because it was his “standard business practice not to provide cakes for same-sex weddings.”
Following this altercation, Mullins and Craig successfully filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which restricts Colorado businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of their race and sexual orientation, citing that refusing to serve the couple was illegal discrimination.
As a result, Phillips, who believes his First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech were are being violated has appealed and brought the case to the US Supreme Court.
The deciding vote will most likely be cast in court by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who not only has written all of the gay rights rulings in the US Supreme Court, but is also a huge supporter of freedom of speech. Fundamentally, both ends of this case should appeal to Kennedy.
Speaking to Phillips’ lawyer in court Tuesday, Kennedy stated, “If you prevail and bakeries put signs in the window saying, ‘We don’t bake cakes for gay weddings,’ wouldn’t that be an affront to the gay community?”
However, when addressing the lawyer for the couple, the judge said, “Tolerance is essential in a free society,” and stated that the state of Colorado wasn’t being tolerant of the religious beliefs of Phillips in their decision to rule against him.
Phillips, who stated that his cakes were his art and therefore were expressions of his viewpoints and beliefs, said that if he were to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, he would be going against his religious beliefs.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued against Phillips, asking if the cake acts as a form of expression, what about the other aesthetic elements of a wedding, like the flowers or the invitations? Justice Elena Kagan echoed Ginsburg, asking if the make-up artists and hairdressers hired for the wedding acted in the same way.
“That’s not speech,” stated Kristen Waggoner, who was representing Phillips in court.
“Some might say the same about cakes,” Kagan fired back.
Further, Colorado courts stated that the average person would believe the message expressed by the cake belonged to the couple and not to the baker, and David Cole of the ACLU confirmed this statement.
“If a mother asks a bakery for a cake that says ‘Happy Birthday’ and serves it at her child’s birthday, no one thinks that’s the baker’s wishes. They think it’s the mom’s,” Cole stated.
The case will be decided in late June of this year.