The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday overturned the Colorado Court of Appeals’ ruling in a case involving a Lakewood baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, citing religious objections.
The state appeals court had upheld the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s action against the baker. The Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
“The Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s consideration of this case was inconsistent with the State’s obligation of religious neutrality,” Justice Anthony Kennedy ruled for the Supreme Court majority.
“The reason and motive for the baker’s refusal were based on his sincere religious beliefs and convictions. The Court’s precedents make clear that the baker, in his capacity as the owner of a business serving the public, might have his right to the free exercise of religion limited bygenerally applicable laws. Still, the delicate question of when the free exercise of his religion must yield to an otherwise valid exercise of state power needed to be determined in an adjudication in which religious hostility on the part of the State itself would not be a factor in thebalance the State sought to reach.
“That requirement, however, was not met here,” Kennedy continued. “When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires.
“Given all these considerations, it is proper to hold that whatever the outcome of some future controversy involving facts similar to these, the Commission’s actions here violated the Free Exercise Clause; and its order must be set aside.”
Elsewhere, Kennedy notes that “Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth. For that reason the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights. The exercise of their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect by the courts.
“At the same time,” he added, “the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”