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Professor Weighs in on Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cake Ruling

6/7/2018

Professor John Culhane recently weighed in on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Masterpiece Cake Shop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in an article he wrote for Politico titled “The Supreme Court Punts on Cakes for Same-Sex Couples.”

“The outcome was expected to be closely divided, but the decision was a surprisingly lopsided 7-2 vote in favor of Jack Phillips, the baker who’d refused to create a cake for a same-sex couple. Yet, because of the very specific, not-likely-to-be-repeated basis on which Justice Anthony Kennedy resolved the case, it didn’t end being the blockbuster resolution of the LGBTQ rights/freedom of expression conflict most people were expecting,” Culhane wrote of the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The case revolved around a dispute from 2012 in Colorado between Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cake Shop and a couple, Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, who had recently married and wanted Phillips to bake them a custom cake in celebration of their recent marriage. Some observers expected that the decision might delve into the thorny issues of civil rights versus freedom of expression, but the court’s decision proved more specific and narrow.

The ultimate decision rested instead on the idea that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had demonstrated hostility to religious views, prompting Culhane to write, “By finding that the commission’s decision had been tainted in this way, the court was able to sidestep the tougher questions of whether Phillips had been engaging in protected expression, and whether that expression was important enough to justify discriminating against same-sex couples. But it’s going to be the rare case where a judge or other official decision-maker announces such an anti-religious point of view.”

Read the article on Politico for Professor Culhane’s full analysis of the decision.