Supreme Court Issues Cowardly Decision on Gay Wedding Cake Case
The Supreme Court delivered a victory for religious conservatives on Monday with a decision favoring a Colorado baker who was fined for refusing to bake a gay wedding cake back in 2012. The decision, however, was considerably less than was hoped for by First Amendment defenders.
Taken in its full context, the 7-2 decision will have little authority beyond the specific circumstances of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case; certainly, it will not provide Christian business owners with the broad protection they were looking for. The question of whether or not an entrepreneur can cite religious conscience when refusing certain orders…well that’s very much still up in the air.
As one could guess by the fact that two of the court’s liberals voted for this decision, the case did not set any particular precedent as it pertains to religious exemptions. Nor did it offer any new commentary on whether the rights of gay couples exceed those rights afforded to all Americans under the First Amendment. These (obvious, to us) questions were left for another time; the court simply decided that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was too hostile towards religion when it decided to punish baker Jack Phillips for violating the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Had the commissioners used slightly different language in their decision, the Supreme Court may well have decided this case another way.
As Reuters put it: “The decision did not address important claims raised in the case including whether baking a cake is a kind of expressive act protected by the Constitution’s free speech guarantee.”
In a statement, the gay couple at the heart of the case seemed nearly proud of the ruling as Phillips, which gives you an idea of how muddled this decision really was.
“Today’s decision means our fight against discrimination and unfair treatment will continue,” the couple said. “We have always believed that in America, you should not be turned away from a business open to the public because of who you are.”
Of course, this couple was NOT turned away from Masterpiece Cakeshop. They were merely denied a gay wedding cake. They were not discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation; they were discriminated against on the basis of an event they were planning. As far as we can tell, the Supreme Court has not yet decided to make the EVENT known as a GAY WEDDING subject to special protections under the 14th Amendment. That would, of course, be utterly absurd.
This is the strange claim that lies at the heart of these anti-discrimination lawsuits and rulings, and we’re very disappointed that the Supreme Court basically punted on those important questions. This needs to be hashed out one way or the other. Do gay people have extra rights in this country or don’t they? That’s what this comes down to. The only other option is to say that business owners must, if they offer services to anyone for any reason, offer ANY variation of that service to ANYONE who wants it for ANY reason. Which is to say to every American: Your constitutional rights end at the doors of your workplace.
Or we could just, you know, follow the Constitution as its written and keep the government out of our rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.