The Supreme Court has again been asked to resolve a closely watched dispute involving discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court heard oral argument in December in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which, unlike prior challenges in this area, involves the First Amendment. The court must decide whether the First Amendment bars application of Colorado’s public accommodations law to compel a person to create expression (here, a wedding cake) that conflicts with that person’s sincerely held religious beliefs about same-sex marriage.
This dispute began when a same-sex couple asked a Denver-area bakery to make them a custom wedding cake. The bakery owner, Jack Phillips, refers to himself as a “cake artist” and is a devout Christian. He refused to create a custom cake for the couple, citing his religious beliefs. He claimed that this refusal was in line with his decision not to design and bake any Halloween-themed cakes, cakes including alcohol as an ingredient, cakes celebrating divorce, or any other cakes conflicting with his religious beliefs. He would, however, sell the couple any products in his store, including a generic (not custom) wedding cake. The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC).
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