This is a dark day for human rights and a setback to the LGBT community. The baker who refused to create a custom cake for a gay couple, claiming that it was against his religion, won his case today. Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was decided by the Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision, which relied on very narrow grounds, saying that the commission violated a baker’s constitutional protection of religious freedom. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.
“The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.”
The decision, which turned on the commission’s asserted hostility to religion, left open the possibility that other cases raising similar issues could be decided differently.
Gay rights groups argued that a ruling for the baker, Phillips, would undermine the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling guaranteeing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, marking the unions of gay couples second-class marriages unworthy of legal protection. That is precisely what happened.
In-depth analysis will be available shortly but for right now there is confusion because the court did not issue a definitive ruling on the circumstances under which people can seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws based on their religious views.
Look to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and the like to megaphone this as a great victory and it goes without saying that the evangelicals will be dancing in the streets. Mike Pence will crow, albeit silently, because when he was Governor of Indiana it was quite common for establishments to refuse service to gay people.
Finally, as always happens in situations like this, other vulnerable groups such as the homeless will be targeted as well.
This is indeed a dark and cloudy day.