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Supreme Court Sides With Baker Who Turned Away Gay Couple 

click to enlarge Jack Phillips, center, the baker who was convicted under a Colorado anti-discrimination law for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, Dec. 5, 2017. The court sided with Phillips on June 4, 2018, in the closely watched case pitting gay rights against claims of religious freedom. - ZACH GIBSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Zach Gibson/The New York Times
  • Jack Phillips, center, the baker who was convicted under a Colorado anti-discrimination law for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, Dec. 5, 2017. The court sided with Phillips on June 4, 2018, in the closely watched case pitting gay rights against claims of religious freedom.

By ADAM LIPTAK
© 2018 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker Monday in a closely watched case pitting gay rights against claims of religious freedom.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 7-2 decision, relied on narrow grounds, saying a state commission had violated the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom in ruling against the baker, Jack Phillips, who had refused to create a custom wedding cake for a gay couple.

“The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here,” 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 Supreme Court’s decision, which turned on the commission’s asserted hostility to religion, strongly reaffirmed protections for gay rights and left open the possibility that other cases raising similar issues could be decided differently.

“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts,” Kennedy wrote, “all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”

The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, No. 16-111, arose from a brief encounter in 2012, when David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Phillips’ bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, in Lakewood, Colorado. The two men were going to be married in Massachusetts and they were looking for a wedding cake for a reception in Colorado.

Phillips turned them down, saying he would not use his talents to convey a message of support for same-sex marriage at odds with his religious faith. Mullins and Craig said they were humiliated by Phillips’ refusal to serve them, and they filed a complaint with Colorado’s civil rights commission, saying that Phillips had violated a state law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Mullins and Craig won before the Colorado civil rights commission and in the state courts.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that Phillips’ free speech rights had not been violated, noting that the couple had not discussed the cake’s design before Phillips turned them down.
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