Supreme Court should rule in favor of Masterpiece Cake ShopBy Jack Kitchin | 01/21/2018 10:01pm
Ever since the events surrounding Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission came into the public eye in 2012, it has been a hot-button issue when discussing LGBTQ rights. Oral arguments for the Supreme Court case took place last month, and there is much anticipation surrounding the upcoming ruling.
After viewing both sides of this case and analyzing them from a legal perspective, it becomes clear that there are serious flaws in the argument for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Furthermore, it becomes clear that the argument for Masterpiece Cakeshop is legally sound, and that the court should rule in favor of Masterpiece.
The argument being made by the counsel for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission stems from the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that the government will not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” They argue that the cake shop denying a homosexual couple service for their wedding is a violation of the couple’s right to be equally protected under the law of the United States.
This argument has been made in several cases such as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) when arguing that American laws which discriminated on the basis of race and sexual orientation were unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. These arguments were legally sound as were the rulings they rendered. However, the Masterpiece case cannot be viewed in the same light.
When Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig approached Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, they requested that he make a cake with a rainbow design on it for their wedding, signifying their homosexual relationship. Phillips refused to design that specific cake because it conflicts with his beliefs as a Christian. However, Phillips offered to sell them any other products from his store.
This is the key difference between this case and previous equal protection cases. In Brown v. Board and Obergefell v. Hodges, the rights of individuals were being violated as a direct result of their race or sexual orientation, respectively. However, in this case, the rights of Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig were not violated, as service was not denied to them based on their sexual orientation. Mr. Phillips offered to sell them any product from his store. He only refused to design a specific type of cake.
In contrast, the argument being made by the counsel for Masterpiece Cakeshop is based on the First Amendment of the Constitution. The First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.” The argument for Masterpiece encompasses both the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression.
As an American citizen, Jack Phillips has the right to practice his religion the way he sees fit. While other individuals and even other Christians may disagree with the way he practices his faith, he has this right. So long as he does not physically harm any other individual, his religious practices are left to his autonomy.
The Bible includes passages that denote homosexuality as sinful in the books of Genesis, Leviticus and Romans. Because the Bible constitutes the word of God in the Christian faith, and, for many Protestant denominations, is considered a Christian’s closest link to God, it is reasonable to see that Jack Phillips’ moral opposition to homosexuality comes from his religious faith.
Therefore, refusing to design a specific cake for a homosexual wedding in order not to personally further what he considers to be sinful behavior can be considered practicing his religion. Jack Phillips did not physically harm Mr. Mullins or Mr. Craig by not making the cake, and thus is not acting outside the limits of his right to the freedom of religion.
Furthermore, Jack Phillips has the right to express himself as he pleases. His wedding cakes are his livelihood. Just as a columnist puts his or her name on an article in a publication and presents it as an expression of his or her thoughts, Jack Phillips designs cakes that are a representation of himself and his values. Given his First Amendment rights, Jack Phillips has the right not to express things with which he disagrees through the way he makes a living.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy once said, “Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech.” While the actions of Jack Phillips may have inconvenienced Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig, this cannot be held above his First Amendment rights. The freedoms guaranteed to all Americans are vital to maintaining our unique way of life. It is therefore of utmost importance that the Court rule with Masterpiece in order to protect the rights of all Americans of all religions.
Jack Kitchin is a sophomore majoring in political science. His column runs biweekly.