Is it unconstitutional to refuse to make a wedding cake if you disapprove of the marriage? That’s the question the U.S. Supreme Court is debating right now. After hearing oral arguments on the matter, the Supreme Court justices are debating the issues and preparing a decision. Supreme Court watchers say that the case may come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy. They say that he’s a moderate justice whose vote could make the difference in the case.
It all started when a Colorado bakery declined to make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding. They refused to make the cake on religious grounds, saying that they believe marriage should be between only a man and a woman. Lawyers for the bakery say that they should have the right to practice religion on their own terms. They also say that requiring them to make the cake violates their right to free speech which includes artistic expression.
Justices like Elena Kagan wondered out loud where to draw the line. Kagan pointed out that any business owner could violate the rights of others citing religious grounds. Kennedy worried that voting in favor of the bakery might lead to outright harassment of same-sex couples.
On the other hand, Kennedy also expressed agreement with the bakery owner’s right to practice his own religion. He seemed to agree with the bakery’s lawyer that individuals in a free society must tolerate beliefs that they don’t agree with. If this decision hinges on Kennedy, it’s ironic, because he’s the same judge who wrote the opinion that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. However, experts say that Justice Kennedy is known for taking free speech rights seriously.
Public accommodation laws require places like hotels and restaurants to provide services without discrimination. A hotel can’t turn away an interracial couple, for example. The bakery says this is different because their religion isn’t racism. They say that they don’t make cakes for Halloween, either.
When the bakery refused to make the cake, same-sex marriage wasn’t yet legal in Colorado. The men said that their marriage was in another state. When the baker offered to make other goods for them, he said that the men “stormed out.” They made a complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission which ruled against the baker. From there, the baker took the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals. For their part, the couple says that the case is about more than just a wedding cake. They say that it’s about equality for everyone.