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Supreme Court rules Colorado violated baker’s religious freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding.

In the 7-2 split decision, the justices held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the rights of the baker under the “free exercise” clause of the first amendment.

Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, told the couple in 2012 he could not create their wedding cake because of his Christian beliefs, but he would be willing to sell them other baked goods, such as birthday cakes. In response, the couple filed a complaint on grounds that the baker had violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which specifically prohibits “discrimination based on sexual orientation in a ‘place of business engaged in any sales to the public and any place offering services… to the public.'”

In the opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court wrote that there was evidence “of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating” Phillips within the Commission, adding that the group “disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.”

However, a big issue in the case, whether a business can refuse to serve gay and lesbian customers, was left undecided.

In the limited ruling Monday, Kennedy says the issue “must await further elaboration.”

Appeals in similar cases are still pending at several levels of the justice system, including one Supreme Court case from a florist who did not want to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

The full decision is available on the Supreme Court website.


CONTRIBUTING: Associated Press