The case in question became an internet sensation, even before it ever reached the Supreme Court’s docket. It involves Colorado baker Jack Phillips and his shop, Masterpiece Cakeshop, over the issue of whether or not the First Amendment guarantees him the right to refuse to bake a cake for the gay wedding of Charlie Craig and David Mullins. The couple sued Phillips for violating a state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. While Mullins and Craig won the initial case, Phillips first pursued the matter in state appeals courts and is now due to have his side heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court Must Draw a Line Between Discrimination and the First Amendment
There’s a fine line between discrimination and the freedom of speech and the freedom of beliefs. That’s a line the Supreme Court has endeavored to establish many times before, as well. For as long as we have had the Bill of Rights, people and businesses have tried to use the First Amendment to justify discrimination. That’s a ploy that rarely works, especially in cases that reach the United States Supreme Court.
In 1973, the court determined that private discrimination may be viewed as one type of freedom of expression, but that doesn’t mean it is, in fact, protected by the terms of the constitution. Yet, 1995 brought about a decision that seemed to reverse that earlier opinion. In denying a gay rights march to participate in a St. Patrick’s Day parade, the court held that Massachusetts could not compel private citizens to include the gay pride march in its parade. As the parade is a form of expression in itself, the Supreme Court established that the themes of the parade were up to those organizing the event.
Neither Decision Will Undermine Anti-Discrimination Laws
While it’s anyone’s guess how the Supreme Court will decide, even Jack Phillips’ court documents acknowledge that the case isn’t a fight against anti-discrimination laws. In this instance, Phillips is simply trying to defend his own right to use his talents in a way that coincides with his personal belief system. That means not being forced to create a wedding cake for a gay marriage, while he’s personally opposed to same-sex marriages.
The Supreme Court may go along with that exception. It would be a simpler matter to make an exception based on one unique case versus having to redefine anti-discrimination laws on a broader term. If the court does rule in favor of Jack Phillips, the decision will almost certainly specify that the terms are specific to the situation. The court would only be granting Phillips to use his talents and skills in a way that coincides with his personal expressions. Otherwise, businesses might attempt to use this one limited exception as a way to discriminate against others, based on sexual orientation.