Supreme Court Rules on Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

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MassEquality News

June 4, 2018


The front of the Supreme Court buildingBreaking News: Supreme Court Rules in Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination Case, Reverses CO Civil Rights Commission Decision

The Supreme Court delivered its decision on the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case today, ruling in a 7-2 decision that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility towards the religious beliefs of bakery owner Jack Phillips in deciding the case filed against him. The Court reversed the Commission's ruling against the baker in its narrow and case-specific decision, but left intact Colorado's LGBTQ-inclusive anti-discrimination protections and similar laws in 19 other states, including Massachusetts.

The case involved an incident in 2012 when Phillips was approached by a same-sex couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who asked him to create a wedding cake for their marriage ceremony. Phillips refused to make them a wedding cake due to his religious opposition to same-sex marriage. Craig and Mullins then filed a charge against Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled that the baker had unlawfully discriminated against the couple.

"In its decision, the Court relied heavily on both Colorado law, which did not recognize equal marriage in 2012, and the fact that the US v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges cases making equal marriage the law of the land had not yet been decided by the Court," said Deborah Shields, Esq., Executive Director of MassEquality. "Some statements in today's opinion are very worrisome in terms of leaving the door open to further right-wing attempts to erode LGBTQ equality under the guise of protecting religious freedom."

Today's Supreme Court decision does not impact the longstanding principle that businesses serving the public must be open to all, including LGBTQ people. In their majority opinion, the Justices (notably including conservative Justices Alito and Gorsuch) state:

"Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth. For that reason the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights. The exercise of their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect by the courts."

The Court did not accept arguments that would have undermined the nation's anti-discrimination laws. However, it also did not provide the strong affirmation of LGBTQ rights that our community hoped for. MassEquality will continue to monitor religious exemption cases that challenge anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and other minority communities.

This case and others like it make it clear that Massachusetts and other states must step up to protect LGBTQ equality. Our community's basic rights are facing unprecedented challenges across the country, and over half of states lack even basic legal protections for LGBTQ people. MassEquality is leading the fight for LGBTQ rights, and we continue to work towards a day when everyone in Massachusetts and throughout the nation can live without fear of anti-LGBTQ discrimination and oppression.

Red "Donate Now" buttonJoin us in the fight to protect and strengthen LGBTQ rights in Massachusetts: Please give to MassEquality today! Thank you for your generous support.

[Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina]



MassEquality staff, board and volunteers at Boston Pride 2016Join MassEquality for Pride Month!

MassEquality is looking for volunteers to help us at upcoming Pride events in Boston and Salem. We will be at Boston Pride on Saturday, June 9th from 11 am to 5 pm and North Shore Pride in Salem on Saturday, June 23rd from noon to 4:30 pm.

We're looking for volunteers to help staff our table, hand out literature, etc. for 1-hour or 2-hour shifts throughout the day in both Boston and Salem. It's a great way to meet people, learn more about MassEquality's work, and celebrate Pride while actively supporting LGBTQ rights!

All volunteers for Pride events will get a free, limited edition MassEquality t-shirt.

Please visit to volunteer with MassEquality at a Pride event near you.

[Photo Credit: Deborah Shields]



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