The Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled in favor of cake artist and owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop Jack Phillips, finding that the government was wrong to punish Jack for peacefully living out his beliefs in the marketplace. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, held that the government must respect Jack’s religious beliefs about marriage, and that religious hostility has no place in a pluralistic society.
Jack welcomes all people to his store, including those who identify as LGBT. And like millions of other Americans, Jack believes marriage is only between one man and one woman.
When a same-sex couple sought to commission a custom cake for their wedding, Jack offered to sell them anything in his shop or to design a cake for them for a different occasion, but he declined their request for a custom-made wedding cake because he could not participate in celebrating an event that contradicts his religious beliefs about marriage. Instead of respecting Jack’s beliefs, protestors picketed his store and some called with death threats, even though the couple received a free rainbow wedding cake from another cake designer.
The state of Colorado found Jack to be in violation of its sexual-orientation nondiscrimination law and ordered him to create cakes for same-sex weddings if he continued to design wedding cakes. One Colorado commissioner even compared Jack’s attempts to protect his religious freedom to arguments made by slave owners and Nazis. To avoid violating his conscience, Jack was forced to stop designing wedding cakes altogether, costing him 40 percent of his business.
The Supreme Court in Masterpiece affirmed that the belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman—a belief that the Court in Obergefell v. Hodges said is based on “decent and honorable” premises and held “in good faith by reasonable and sincere people”—must be respected by the government. Just as the lesbian graphic designer shouldn’t be forced to create a flyer for a religious group’s event opposing same-sex marriage, Jack shouldn’t be forced to create custom wedding cakes celebrating same-sex marriage. We should all be free to peacefully live and work consistent with our beliefs.
Growing government discrimination against those who seek to live and work consistent with their beliefs underscores that federal legislation is necessary to protect citizens, businesses, and nonprofits from government coercion.