What the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court Decision Actually Means

In 2012, a same-sex couple visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado to order a custom wedding cake. Masterpiece's owner, Jack Phillips, declined their cake request, informing the couple that he did not create wedding cakes for same-sex marriages due to his Christian religious beliefs.

In today’s decision, the Supreme court held that Jack Phillips did not get a fair hearing on his complaint, saying a state commission had violated the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom in a ruling against the baker. However, the court expressly recognized that states can seek to prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people.

Rebecca Rolfe, Executive Director of the SF LGBT Center, had the following reaction:
“Today’s ruling was a case specific ruling, and though it is disappointing, it is not a win for anti-LGBTQ people. Let’s remember that 60% of our states lack explicit protections from LGBT people being discriminated against in the workplace, housing, stores and restaurants. It is just another reason why we need an equality act on a national level; so that there is one set of rules for everyone.”

A 2017 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute revealed that 60% of Americans oppose religiously-based refusals of services and products.

The ruling was 7-2. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Legal experts say that the court did not give businesses a constitutional right to discriminate, which the bakery and the Trump administration sought here.


photo: javanesea/Flickr

Contact Person: 
Judi Baker