This was one of the most contentious weeks at the Supreme Court with the Justices hearing the case of the intolerant baker, Jack Phillips of Lakewood, Colorado, who lawyers were painfully arguing again that he has the right to refuse service to paying customers.
I say “again” as the original lawsuit, Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, was decided in favor of the plaintiffs:
The cake shop was ordered not only to provide cakes to same-sex marriages, but to “change its company policies, provide ‘comprehensive staff training’ regarding public accommodations discrimination, and provide quarterly reports for the next two years regarding steps it has taken to come into compliance and whether it has turned away any prospective customers.”
Great. So that must be it. Done. Right?
Nope. The master of Masterpiece, appealed to the aptly named Colorado Court of Appeals. In its decision, the Colorado Court of Appeals “asserted that despite the artistic nature of creating a custom cake, the act of making the cake was part of the expected conduct of Phillips’ business, and not an expression of free speech nor free exercise of religion.”
Great. He tried, but that must be it. Done. Right?
Nope. Next in line was the Supreme Court of Colorado, which declined to hear an appeal, at all.
Whew. Good try, but that must be it. Three strikes and all that.
Nope. As the final arbitrator, the Supreme Court of the United States, had agreed to hear the case.
Why, you ask? No idea.
For those interested in the details, the transcript of the 1 hour and 24 minute session is online, as well as the entertaining audio. Of most importance, we get to hear Justice Kennedy, who is considered to be the swing vote. In the questioning, Kennedy asked the lawyer for Craig numerous questions that made it seem like he was in favor of the baker and perhaps even the candlestick maker.
It is hard to figure out which side he will land on, but it would be nice if consider the what was perhaps the strongest retort to the religious nonsense, which came at the very end of the session:
WAGGONER: Justice Sotomayor, I think that the gravest offense to the First Amendment would be to compel a person who believes that marriage is sacred, to give voice to a different view of marriage and require them to celebrate that marriage. The First Amendment –
JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Then don’t participate in weddings, or create a cake that is neutral, but you don’t have to take and offer goods to the public and then choose not to sell to some because of a protected characteristic. That’s what the public anti-discrimination laws require.
Let’s hope that the Court decides in favor of public anti-discrimination laws. If not, they are opening the doors to many other barriers that have long since been dismantled.