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.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. Today it is the world’s leading organization combating anti-Semitism, exposing hate groups, training law enforcement on hate crimes, developing anti-bias education programs for students, countering cyber-hate and relentlessly pursuing equal rights for all.