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Masterpiece Cakeshop – What it Means for You (Spoiler Alert: Not Much)

by Lee Carpenter 
wedding cakeThis week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. That’s the famous “gay wedding cake” case, in which a very religious baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a Colorado same-sex couple.The couple filed a complaint with the state agency responsible for enforcing Colorado’s LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination law. They won, and the baker appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that his right to the free exercise of his religion had been violated by the state.

So the baker won. And unfortunately, that’s led to a lot of folks on both sides claiming that all of America’s haters now have a “license to discriminate” as long as they cloak their animosity towards us in religious clothing.

That’s just not true. In fact, this ruling resolved none of the major issues in the case.

We didn’t know before this opinion whether a religious baker could refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. We still don’t.

We didn’t know whether baking a cake is the kind of artistic expression that makes it protected by the First Amendment. We still don’t know the answer to that either, because the Supreme Court didn’t rule on those things.

All the opinion said was that in this case, some officials sounded like they were being disrespectful and dismissive of the baker’s religious belief, and that that was unacceptable.

All of the big issues in this case will have to be resolved at some point, but for now, the Court has decided that this isn’t the right case to make big, bold pronouncements about how the balance between religion and LGBT civil rights gets resolved.

So for now, go about your business, and go to whatever business you like.

Lee Carpenter is a Temple University Law School Professor. She and her partner Tiffany Palmer live in Mt. Airy with their 11 year-old kid.

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