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United States

US Supreme Court in narrow ruling finds for Christian baker who refused to make wedding cake for gay couple

The justices, in a 7-2 decision, faulted the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s handling of the claims brought against the baker, saying it had showed a hostility to religion

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 June, 2018, 11:10pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 12:35am

The US Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a Christian baker from Colorado who refused for religious reasons to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The justices, in a 7-2 decision, faulted the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s handling of the claims brought against the baker, Jack Phillips, finding that the commission had showed a hostility to religion.

In doing so, the commission violated Phillips’s religious rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

The court, however, did not issue a definitive ruling on the circumstances under which people can seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws based on their religious views – the larger issue the case raised.

The Colorado commission had said Phillips, by rebuffing gay couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig in 2012, violated the state’s anti-discrimination law that bars businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.

Two of the court’s four liberals, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, joined the five conservative justices in the ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

In 2015 the court legalised same-sex marriage nationwide in a 5-4 ruling also written by Kennedy.

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“The commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion,” Kennedy wrote in the current case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognising that these disputes 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,” Kennedy said.

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Of the 50 states, 21 including Colorado have anti-discrimination laws protecting gay people.

When arguments were held before the court in December, President Donald Trump’s administration spoke in support of Phillips.