U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop Owner

Decision heavily weighted at 7-2, but does not change Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 4 issued a narrow, much-anticipated ruling in favor of baker Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court found the commission violated Phillips’ constitutional protection of religious liberty when it ruled Phillips had violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.

The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion. In the days since the decision, groups on each side have given their own spin to the decision to color it as advantageous: LGBTQ rights groups touting its narrow scope and limited applicability, and supporters of Phillips’ position trumpeting the decision as a victory for religious freedom.

But ultimately, the decision is a narrow one that doesn’t affect the substance or enforcement of CADA. From a practical perspective, the ruling left the First Amendment and LGBTQ merits wide open for future cases, and the judicial minimalism reflected in the decision has become a hallmark of the Roberts Court.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the June 11, 2018 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.