I’ve spent the afternoon reading the US Supreme Court decision regarding Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm’n (16-111), the case of the Christian baker refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage. The court found in favour of Masterpiece Cakeshop by 7-2, having determined that the act of creating a custom cake constituted speech hence could not be compelled.
There are a few interesting bits in the ruling:
That consideration was compromised, however, by the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case, which showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection. As the record shows, some of the commissioners at the Commission’s formal, public hearings endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. No commissioners objected to the comments.
The remarks in question were made by a Commissioner Heidi Hess, who said “freedom of religion used to justify discrimination is a despicable piece of rhetoric.” According to her bio:
Heidi Jeanne Hess is the Western Slope Field Organizer for One Colorado, coordinating the organization’s grassroots efforts, developing diverse coalitions, and bridging gaps within LGBTQ communities in Grand Junction and along the Western Slope.
Heidi is relatively new to Colorado … has been actively involved in LGBTQ rights and activism since 1982.
She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and a Master of Arts in Communication both from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
That such people hold positions on Civil Rights Commissions telling bakers they must create cakes bearing a message they vehemently object to explains why this case has arrived at the Supreme Court. Thankfully they’ve given her a verbal shoeing in the process of finding against them. And this made me laugh:
In her spare time, Heidi enjoys reading, going on day trips with her partner, Dannie, and being involved with their church.
Given the Supreme Court thought her “hostile to religion”, I wonder what sort of church it is. This is interesting as well, from the court’s ruling:
The Commission ruled against Phillips in part on the theory that any message on the requested wedding cake would be attributed to the customer, not to the baker. Yet the Division did not address this point in any of the cases involving requests for cakes depicting anti-gay marriage symbolism. The Division also considered that each bakery was willing to sell other products to the prospective customers, but the Commission found Phillips’ willingness to do the same irrelevant.
So three other bakers refused to bake cakes with anti-gay messages on them; Phillips was told this was irrelevant to his refusal to make a cake with a pro-gay message.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that this happened in 2012:
JUSTICE ALITO: It did not at the time. That is — this is very odd. We’re thinking about this case as it might play out in 2017, soon to be 2018, but this took place in 2012.
So, if Craig and Mullins had gone to a state office and said we want a marriage license, they would not have been accommodated. If they said: Well, we want you to recognize our Massachusetts marriage, the state would say: No, we won’t accommodate that. Well, we want a civil union. Well, we won’t accommodate that either. And yet, when he goes to this bake shop and he says I want a wedding cake, and the baker says, no, I won’t do it, in part because same-sex marriage was not allowed in Colorado at the time, he’s created a grave wrong. How does that all that fit together?
In other words, the baker was prosecuted for refusing to make a cake celebrating gay marriage at a time when Colorado didn’t allow or recognise gay marriage. Go figure.
I believe the Supreme Court has done the right thing in siding with the baker, but what the whole thing shows is how much of an almighty mess American law has become with the establishment of various “protected classes” each with its own set of activists looking to assert their “rights”, and when two such classes collide you’re left with judges trying to work out the pecking order.
The judges’ decision is too narrowly defined to be seen as a pushback against continued erosion of freedom of association and individual liberty in the name of anti-discrimination, and anyone raising the spectre of gays becoming second-class citizens being denied basic services is either lying or hasn’t read the ruling. I expect there will be plenty more cases like this, each more farcical than the last.