A baker in Colorado has been the focus of a heated debate regarding whether business-owners’ rights for freedom of religion should take precedence over individuals’ rights not to be discriminated against in businesses that are open to the public. The Colorado Baker refused to bake a cake for the same-sex couple’s wedding citing his religious beliefs, a decision that the courts in Colorado found to be unlawful. This, however, continued to escalate until reaching the Supreme Court of the United States which has just ruled in favour of the baker.
In a 7-2 decision, Supreme Court justices found that the Colorado baker had not acted unlawfully, adding that the Colorado State Court had acted with noticeable hostility towards the baker’s religious beliefs, as Justice Kennedy indicated in his ruling “The commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the first amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral towards religion.” The two dissenting votes were Ruth Bader Ginsburg appointed by Bill Clinton, and Sonia Sotomayor appointed by Barrack Obama.
While many believe this, like many supreme court ruling, sets a legal precedent for the country at large, it’s important to point out that this ruling applies exclusively to the Colorado Baker. The justices have made it tremendously clear that this ruling was made taking into consideration the unique circumstances that applied to this particular case, including the perceived hostility of the Colorado Court, and that future similar cases will have to be judged based on their own circumstances.
In fact, the justices’ opinion included the following statement: “The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.” Essentially, businesses in the United States have not been granted the legal right to discriminate against customers as they see fit.
Whether or not you believe that a business owner’s rights of freedom of speech and association should take precedent above individuals’ rights not to be discriminated against, the fact remains that this ruling is but a small occurrence in a far larger saga.
Deputy Editor, The Unshackled
Host of the Front and Center Podcast