Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (U.S. Supreme Court, 2017)

Discrimination
Discrimination

Based on religious objections to same-sex marriage, the owner of a bakery refused to design and sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple for their upcoming wedding. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission found that the bakery violated the State’s anti-discrimination law, which prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in the sale of goods and services by public accommodations. In response to this violation, the petitioners, the bakery and its owner, raised multiple constitutional claims, including a claim that the Free Exercise Clause to the First Amendment permitted the denial of service to the couple. ADL joined an amicus brief filed by civil rights and religious groups. It asserts that particularly for generally applicable laws such as Colorado’s anti-discrimination statute, the Free Exercise Clause does not authorize religious exemptions that harm others. Even if the Free Exercise Clause authorized such exemptions, the Establishment Clause to the First Amendment prohibits them. The brief also stresses that anti-discrimination laws like Colorado’s embody First Amendment principles by prohibiting religious discrimination and protecting our nation’s vibrant diversity. Acceptance of the argument that discriminatory conduct is exempt from the law because of religious beliefs would undermine the rule in our pluralistic democracy. Furthermore, the logic of petitioners’ claim has no limit. Businesses would be able to refuse to serve customers based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or any other protected characteristic, so long as they cited religious beliefs as the justification.