On December 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case about a baker who refused to sell a cake for a same-sex wedding reception because of his religious beliefs. The case began in 2012 when Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, a same-sex couple, went to Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery in Lakewood, Colorado, to purchase a custom wedding cake for their wedding reception. The bakery owner, Jack Phillips, said that he would sell wedding cakes only to heterosexual couples because of his religious beliefs. The couple filed a lawsuit. A court in Colorado found that the bakery discriminated against the couple and ordered the bakery to provide for same-sex marriages. Colorado has a state law which prohibits businesses that are open to the public from discriminating based on characteristics, including sexual orientation. Mr. Phillips responded by arguing that the state’s anti-discrimination law forced him to use his artistic talents to bake a cake for same-sex couples, violating his constitutional rights to free speech and religious conscience. This led to the U.S. Supreme Court taking on the case for ruling.
In June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, finding that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was improperly influenced by religious hostility when it ruled against him in his effort to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. It is important to note, however, that the Court ruling was a narrow one that did not give businesses a constitutional right to discriminate. The Court reiterated the importance of the rights and dignity of LGBTQ individuals to be free from discrimination, and recognized that exemptions to anti-discrimination laws for businesses must be limited and confined.
This lesson provides an opportunity for students to learn more about this important case and its related Constitutional principles, to reflect on their own opinions and the views of others, and to explore different points of view about the case in order to write an opinion essay of their own.