ADL on Colorado Bakery Case: Disappointing, But Decision's Impact is Limited

New York, NY, June 4, 2018 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed disappointment in the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow ruling in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple based on his religious beliefs.   The decision, however, will likely have limited impact on the application of anti-discrimination laws across the nation.  

Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director, issued the following statement:

“We are disappointed by today’s ruling against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Fortunately, the decision was narrow, focusing on the Commission’s religious partiality in rendering its decision against the baker. 

Let’s be clear, the Supreme Court decision does not give businesses the constitutional right to discriminate, and it does not change existing state anti-discrimination protections. The Court reiterated the importance of the rights and dignity of LGBT individuals to be free from discrimination.  And it recognized that religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws for businesses must be limited and confined.   

ADL will keep working with our partners to advocate for the passage of the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals across the country.  No one should be fired from a job, denied a place to live, or turned away from a business simply because of who they are or who they love.”

The crux of today’s decision is that in enforcing anti-discrimination laws, the state‘s proceedings and decisions cannot be influenced by religious hostility.  Indeed, the Court said that businesses generally cannot use religious objections to deny equal treatment.  And had there been no evidence of religious hostility, the Court very well could have ruled in the couple’s favor. 

ADL joined an amicus brief filed by a coalition of civil rights and religious organizations in this case, entitled Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. It focused on the claims made by the baker under the Free Exercise Clause to the First Amendment.

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.