by Jeffrey Trissell, FCDF Attorney
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Christian baker Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. In a similar case, we are representing Cathy Miller, a California baker and devout Christian who is being prosecuted by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) for declining to design a custom wedding cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. A California court held that Cathy’s constitutional rights protect her from having to create same-sex wedding cakes, and the DFEH is currently appealing.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that “the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.” The Court reversed the ruling against Jack Phillips on the basis that the government cannot show hostility to people of faith, and must balance their interests against those of LGBT persons. But the government in Jack’s case did not even try to do that—instead, it brandished Jack’s religious beliefs ‘despicable’ and paid them no notice.
The Supreme Court’s recognition of Jack’s rights essentially reaffirms the California court in Cathy’s case. Cathy does not object to serving LGBT people generally; she only objects to custom-designing wedding cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies, and she respectfully offered to connect the LGBT couple who came to her bakery with a rival baker who would gladly make their cake. As the Court stated, custom-designing a wedding cake is not the same as selling someone any other cake: “The free speech aspect of this case is difficult, for few persons who have seen a beautiful wedding cake might have thought of its creation as an exercise of protected speech. This is an instructive example, however, of the proposition that the application of constitutional freedoms in new contexts can deepen our understanding of their meaning.”