If a bakeshop refuses to bake your cake for any other reason than religious principle, what do you do? Simply go find another bakeshop. But if the baker refuses your order because it poses a conflict with his beliefs on same sex marriage, you haul him off to court.
That in a nutshell is the gist of the drama surrounding Masterpiece Cake Shop et. al. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission which has polarized supporters of same sex marriage and religious freedom as well as capture the imagination of the United States.
Last December 5, hundreds of protesters representing both sides congregated outside the Supreme Court where the head magistrates appeared to be tightly divided on a case that pits a Lakewood, Colorado- based baker against a gay couple who had planned to get married at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Supporters of the baker, Jack Phillips, held signs which read “Free the Cake Baker”, “We Got Your Back Jack” and “Justice for Jack”.
Meanwhile, those who sided with the gay couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, countered with placards that read “Open to All”, “You Must Sell to All Comers” and “It’s Not About the Cake!”
So how did it all start?
In 2012 Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Bakeshop, was approached by Craig and Mullins to prepare their wedding cake. Phillips refused on the grounds that his religious views forbade him from accepting orders that ran contrary to his beliefs.
Instead of simply walking out the door and conduct a search for another baker who specializes in wedding cakes, Craig and Mullin decided to bring Philips to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission on charges that he violated Colorado’s statute on public accommodations.
The commission ruled against Phillips who likewise lost his appeal in the Colorado Appeals Court. When Colorado’s Supreme Court declined to hear his case, Phillips brought it to Washington where it was accepted by the state’s Supreme Court.
The hearing featured an intense 80-minute oral argument on whether businesses could refuse transacting with gay people if their religious beliefs compelled them to oppose gay marriage.
The swing vote in this tightly- contested case could come from conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy who appeared to be waffling on a ruling in favour of the baker that would essentially approve discrimination against gay people.