The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado pastry chef who had refered to his Christian faith to refuse to make a wedding cake to a gay couple. The judgment, however, has a limited scope that does not settle the conflict between religious freedom and gay rights.
By seven votes to two, the judges of the highest US court actually ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the constitutional rights of the pastry chef, Jack Philips, in finding that he had violated an anti-discrimination law against him. State by refusing to make this cake.
“The hostility of the Commission was inconsistent with the first amendment guarantees that our laws must be applied in a manner that is neutral to religion,” concludes Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking for the majority. This animosity was “obvious and unacceptable,” he says.
However, the Supreme Court has not ruled on the circumstances allowing Americans to claim their religious freedom to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws. Currently, 21 of the 50 US states have laws protecting gay men from discrimination.
These issues will be “further elaborated,” says Kennedy JA, specifying that such conflicts “must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect for sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to unworthy treatment when seeking goods and services “.
Other cases involving service providers who refuse to participate in gay marriages because of their religious beliefs must indeed be closed soon. The case of a florist from Washington State who refused to sell flowers to gay must be decided in late June.
The marriage cake affair, which has become emblematic, although apparently unusual, carries great challenges for American society, because of the main principles involved: religious freedom, sexual equality and freedom of expression protected by the first amendment of the Constitution.
A case in dispute for almost 6 years
The cause of Monday’s judgment goes back to July 19, 2012, when pastry chef Jack Phillips refused to take an order for a wedding cake submitted to him by Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig at his Denver suburb store. by invoking his Christian faith.
The gay couple, now married, have filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to enforce state law, which denounces discrimination on the basis of race, sex, marital status or of sexual orientation. Both men had won their case.
In his argument, Kennedy J. does not hide being annoyed by the words of a commissioner who stated at a hearing in 2014 that “freedom of religion and religion have been used to justify all kinds of discrimination. in history, whether slavery or the Holocaust.
At last December’s Supreme Court hearing, Justice Kennedy stated that these comments did not appear to him “either tolerant or respectful of Mr. Philips’ religious beliefs”.
It should be noted that two of the four judges associated with the progressive wing of the Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, have sided with their Conservative colleagues for the occasion. The other two, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, have dissented.
Reasons to rejoice on both sides
The Supreme Court’s refusal to settle the merits of the case resulted in the lawyers of both parties finding reasons to rejoice in the judgment.
“The hostility of the government towards religious people has no place in our society. Despite this, the state of Colorado has openly opposed Jack’s religious beliefs toward gay marriage. The Court was right to condemn that, “commented Kristen Wagoner, who pleaded the pastry chef’s case in the Supreme Court.
According to her, Mr. Phillips is quite willing to sell manufactured goods to anyone who goes into his business. “He simply refuses to express messages or celebrate events that violate his deep religious beliefs,” she added.
Mr. Wagoner, who pleaded the case on behalf of the Alliance Defending Freedom, argued before the Supreme Court that a wedding cake was a kind of “temporary sculpture,” a form of artistic expression protected by the US Constitution. However, the court did not rule on this.
Louise Melling, who represented the Mullins-Craig couple for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was pleased that the Court did not decide to grant an all-out exemption to traders who wanted to avoid the laws. anti-discrimination by invoking their faith.
The lawyer also hailed the Supreme Court’s reaffirmation that states have the right to prevent all forms of discrimination within a business, including gay and lesbian.
Devron Barton was born and raised in Colorado Springs. Devron has worked as a journalist for nearly a decade having contributed to several large publications including the McKenzie County Farmer and The Denver Press. As a journalist for Winged Express, Devron covers national and international developments.