Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Colorado bakery that refused to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples’ weddings, is about to have their day in court. The Supreme Court, that is – and the date for oral arguments is December 5.
This will be SCOTUS’s first major case on LGBTQ issues since its historic marriage equality ruling in 2015. Here’s a brief history of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, if you forgot the details:
The case has been percolating in state and federal court for years. It came about after Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a Colorado same-sex couple, in 2012 foe their wedding in Massachusetts. Phillips refused the wedding cake based on his religious beliefs, but said he would be happy to make and sell the couple other baked goods.
In 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado filed a lawsuit on behalf of the couple, alleging the bakery discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation under Colorado state law.
An administrative judge ruled in favor of the same-sex couple — a decision the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld in 2015. Although the Colorado Supreme Court had declined to review these decisions and let them stand, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari, or agreed to take up the case, in June.
The U.S. Justice Department has already weighed in on the case, siding with the Colorado baker in a friend-of-the-court brief on the basis that baking a wedding cake is inherently an act of expression and therefore refusing to same-sex couples is a protected right under the First Amendment.
While it’s easy to refer to these cases in passing as “gay wedding cake” lawsuits, it’s actually way more important than that. This case could set the stage in the future for whether businesses can discriminate far and wide based on their owners’ religious beliefs. It could be significant, and it’s about much more than cake. To be continued.