retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The US Supreme Court yesterday ruled in favor of the Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, citing his religious beliefs.

Despite the 7-2 ruling in the baker’s favor, most analysts described it as a “narrow” victory, citing the specificity of the ruling and the likelihood that it has not really set much of a precedent.

Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the majority opinion, which was written by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.

CNN writes that the Supreme Court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which originally sued the baker, “showed hostility toward the baker based on his religious beliefs” and “showed animus toward Phillips specifically when they suggested his claims of religious freedom were made to justify discrimination.”

"The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing 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," the opinion states.

The New York Times writes that “Justice Kennedy often casts the deciding vote in closely divided cases on major social issues. When the court agreed to hear the Colorado case last June, it seemed to present him with a stark choice between two of his core commitments. On the one hand, Justice Kennedy has written every major Supreme Court decision protecting gay men and lesbians. On the other, he is the court’s most ardent defender of free speech.

“On Monday, Justice Kennedy chose a third path, one that seemed to apply only to the case before the court … Though the case was mostly litigated on free speech grounds, Justice Kennedy’s opinion barely discussed the issue. Instead, he focused on what he said were flaws in the proceedings before the commission. Members of the panel, he wrote, had acted with ‘clear and impermissible hostility’ to sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The case goes back to 2012, when a gay couple went to Jack Philips’ bakery and asked him to make a wedding cake. When he refused, saying that to do so would be to support gay marriage (he reportedly also doesn’t bake Halloween cakes because of his religious beliefs), the couple filed a complaint with the the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which launched the long legal battle that ended yesterday in Washington, DC.
KC's View:
It seems to me that the world would be a better place if people did not use religion to discriminate, and if people were not hostile to other people’s religious beliefs. But that’s not the world we live in.

When this case first made the news, I wrote that “it would've been nice for the gay couple to simply have gone to another bakery, and for the ACLU not to have been involved. It would have been nice, it would have been less confrontational, and everybody would've been happy.”

I continue to believe that religion should not be used as an excuse for discrimination, but I’m also a “whatever gets you through the night” kind of guy when it comes to other people’s religious beliefs. This creates, to be honest, a tension that, best I can tell, also is felt by the Supreme Court - which has bought itself time to keep thinking about the issue as other, similar cases make their way up the line.