On June 4, 2018, the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of a self-described cake artist in Colorado to refuse to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. As framed by the Supreme Court, the issue in the case was, “whether applying Colorado’s public accommodations law to compel Phillips [the baker] to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the Free Speech or Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.” In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that Phillips’ religious beliefs were sincerely held, that he was protected under the Constitution’s Free Exercise of Religion Clause, and that he therefore did not violate the state’s public accommodations law. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Docket No. 16-111 (U.S. Supreme Court June 4, 2018).
The facts in the case were not disputed. David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in a suburb of Denver, Colorado, in July 2012, to order a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. Because same-sex marriage was not legal in Colorado at the time, Mullins and Craig planned to marry in Massachusetts and then celebrate with family and friends at a reception in Colorado. But bakery owner Jack Phillips informed them that the bakery wouldn’t sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples. He did offer to sell the couple baked goods for other purposes but cited his religious objections to same-sex marriage as the reason for refusing to sell the couple a wedding cake. Thereafter, Mullins and Craig filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (“Commission”), which ruled that Phillips had engaged in sexual orientation discrimination under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. The Commission’s decision was affirmed by the Colorado Court of Appeals; the Colorado Supreme Court denied review; and the case was then accepted for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.