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Confectioner who Refused to bake a cake for gay couple wins at Supreme Court

by Redaktie in General , 20 July 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

A Christian baker from Colorado who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple based on religious grounds was consequently met with hostility by the Equal Opportunities Commission of Colorado. On these grounds the American Supreme Court rejected the gay couple’s charge and the baker was not prosecuted.

According to the court this ruling has no further consequences and does not create a precedent. The courts still have to look into how to rule on similar cases under different circumstances. This means that all other objections by bakers, florists and photographers who have refused to work for gay couples face an uncertain outcome.

The big question still remains: what is more important, the right to (religious)freedom of speech, such as the baking of a specific cake, or the right not to be discriminated against, such as the purchase of a specific cake?

Not yet legal

This very question became poignant in July 2012 when Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins walked into Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood, on the outskirts of Denver. Within twenty seconds they were outside again: Phillips refused to bake a cake for the two men. A complicating factor is that, at the time, gay marriage was still not legal in Colorado; the men were planning on getting married in Massachusetts, but wanted to celebrate their marriage in their home state. After being refused they took their case to Colorado’s Civil Rights Department. After discovering that Phillips had refused to accept  orders on more than one occasion, the Civil Rights Department of Colorado took the case to the state’s Equal Opportunities Commission.

The Equal Opportunities Commission ruled in favor of the two men, after which a judge confirmed the ruling. But the Supreme Court apparently takes another view and believes that the baker was unfairly treated by the Equal Opportunities Commission because it showed ‘clear and inadmissible hostility towards the sincere religious conviction with which Phillips motivated his objection’.


The Court has particular difficulty with the way in which the Commission dismissed Phillips’ Christian conviction as ‘one of the most despicable forms of rhetoric that people can use to offend others’. The Court believes that it is particularly inappropriate that a commission member argued that freedom of religion ‘is also used to defend other forms of discrimination, be it slavery or the Holocaust’.

That freedom of religion has actually been used to defend slavery and the Holocaust is apparently beside the point – based on this the Court believes that the Commission was not unbiased towards people of faith. One interesting point that illustrates this line of reasoning: unpleasant facts are seen by the Court as opinions, biased or otherwise.

By hiding behind procedural errors, the Court has missed an opportunity to establish a kind of hierarchy between religious freedom and discrimination, and concludes that the matter is difficult to solve. We will have to wait until the next unbaked cake.  


In our youngest issue, Gay News 344, April/ May/ June 2020


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