The United States Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple.
But the court’s narrow ruling applied to just the one case and avoided the larger question of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gay and lesbian people, ABC News reported.
Gay couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in 2012 after they visited baker Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver and he told the couple he would not create the cake for their wedding celebration, cited his religious beliefs.
The justices voted 7-2 that while the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had determined that Masterpiece Cakeshop must serve clients regardless of sexual orientation, the commission’s panel showed “clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs” of the baker and had violated his rights under the First Amendment.
The Colorado commission’s “hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
But he said that the larger issue “must await further elaboration” in the courts, as appeals in similar US cases are pending, including one at the Supreme Court from a florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.
Those disputes, Kennedy wrote, “must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market”.
The ruling received a mixed reaction from LGBTIQ advocates. The ACLU, who represented the couple, wrote in a statement, “The Supreme Court today reaffirmed the core principle that businesses open to the public must be open to all.
“The court did not accept arguments that would have turned back the clock on equality by making our basic civil rights protections unenforceable, but reversed this case based on concerns specific to the facts here.”
Lambda Legal CEO Rachel B. Tiven said the ruling “offered dangerous encouragement to those who would deny civil rights to LGBT people and people living with HIV. Religious freedom under our Constitution has always meant the right to believe whatever you wish but not to act on your beliefs in ways that harm others.”
Australian LGBTIQ advocate Rodney Croome from just.equal said the US ruling had little bearing on Australia’s current religious freedom debate.
“The US decision was based on the narrow ground that the Colorado tribunal that originally found the baker had discriminated was biased against him,” he said.
“The Supreme Court failed to address the key question of whether religious freedom should trump the principle of anti-discrimination.
“Indeed, the Supreme Court made strong statements in favour of LGBTI equality and dignity.
“There is nothing in this decision which should bring joy to that tiny minority of Australians who want the right to treat LGBTI people differently.”
Croome again called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to release the Ruddock religious freedom review’s report, which was handed to the government on May 18.
(Photo by Nadezda Kraft/Adobe Stock)