Bakeries are once again involved in the debate about LGBT rights. This time, it could end up changing federal law.
The case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission will be heard in the Supreme Court on Dec. 5. It involves an incident that happened in 2012, when baker Jake Phillips refused to make a cake for the commitment ceremony reception for David Mullins and Charlie Craig, based on their sexual orientation.
Colorado did not allow same-sex marriage in 2012. Phillips told Mullins and Craig he wouldn't make an "illegal" cake. But opinions and laws on the matter were changing quickly at the time, so the couple felt comfortable making arrangements. They also did not ask for a cake for a marriage, but rather a commitment ceremony, which there were no laws against.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission sued Phillips on behalf of Mullins and Craig. They won that case in a state civil rights division hearing and then in the Colorado Court of Appeals, Politico reports. But Phillips appealed until it reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
The arguments reflect the civil equality versus religious freedom sentiment that accompanies most LGBT-related issues. Craig and Mullins argue their right not be discriminated against is more important, while Phillips maintains that forcing him to make a wedding cake for a gay couple violates his First Amendment rights.
Time notes that although the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, opponents have been using the "freedom of speech" argument to avoid having to support same-sex marriage.
"You don’t have to necessarily buy into the religion argument," says Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "You can just believe that you are compelling people to participate in a form of expression that is not their own."
But such a law would open up the door to discrimination, says Mullins on the plaintiff's side.
"A loss at the Supreme Court could open the door to many forms of discrimination that have long been outlawed in our society," he says. "Could a hotel owner refuse to rent a room to an interracial couple because their religious belief believes that the races should not mix, or could a business owner refuse to hire a single mother because their religion believes that mothers should be married?"
The case involves constitutional rights, cultural opinion, discrimination and moral considerations. Because of the implications, the Supreme Court isn't expected to make a quick decision. Court watchers expect a non-unanimous ruling to come in summer 2018.