Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Case That Will Decide the Future of Anti-Discrimination Law
WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union appeared before the Supreme Court today in oral arguments for Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case that will have widespread impact on the future of anti-discrimination protection in the United States.
The case centers on Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple who entered Denver bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012 hoping to buy a cake for their wedding reception. But before any specifics of design or other details could be discussed, baker Jack Phillips informed the couple that Masterpiece would not sell products to same-sex couples. Craig and Mullins brought a complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, who found that Phillips had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law. But Phillips continued to appeal the case, resulting in one of the most consequential civil rights cases of the 21st century.
At arguments today, Justice Kennedy — who represents the court’s swing vote — expressed concern for both sides of the case. He appeared to recognize the bakery’s argument could undermine civil rights laws across the country. He also appeared to show concern about the expression, rights, and religious freedom of the bakery.
“It is hard to overstate the implications of this case,” said David Cole, legal director of the ACLU, who argued on behalf of the plaintiffs today. “Jack Phillips has claimed he has a First Amendment right to discriminate against same-sex couples. He does not. Businesses open to the public may not choose their customers. These laws ensure that everyone, including gay people, have the freedom to walk into a business and know that they will be treated the same way. A decision against Charlie and Dave would allow businesses across the country to argue that they too can refuse service based on who the customer is. As we argued in court today, the justices have an obligation to defend the principle of equal dignity under the law for all Americans — including Dave and Charlie.”
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