Kennedy wrestles with wedding cake case at Supreme Court
WASHINGTON (AP) — His vote likely to decide the outcome, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy voiced competing concerns Tuesday about respecting the religious beliefs of a Colorado baker who wouldn’t make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, and the gay couple’s dignity.
Kennedy, the author of all the court’s major gay-rights decisions, worried early in a riveting argument at the high court that a ruling in favor of baker Jack Phillips might allow shop owners to put up signs saying “We do not bake cakes for gay weddings.”
But later, Kennedy said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission seemed “neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs” when it found his refusal to bake a cake for the gay couple violated the state’s anti-discrimination law.
Phillips and the couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, were all in the courtroom Tuesday to listen to an argument that otherwise seemed to put the conservative justices squarely with Phillips and the liberals on the couple’s side.
The case pits Phillips’ First Amendment claims of artistic freedom against the anti-discrimination arguments of the Colorado commission, and the two men Phillips turned away in 2012.
The argument was the first involving gay rights since the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that states could not prevent same-sex couples from marrying.
The Trump administration is supporting Phillips in his argument that he can’t be forced to create a cake that violates his religious beliefs. It appears to be the first time the federal government has asked the justices to carve out an exception from an anti-discrimination law.
Protesters on both sides filled the sidewalk in front of the court, shortly before the start of the argument.
“We got Jack’s back,” Phillips’ supporters said. Backers of Craig and Mullins countered: “Love wins.”
Inside the packed courtroom, the liberal justices peppered Kristen Waggoner, Phillips’ lawyer, and Solicitor General Noel Francisco, with questions about how to draw a line to accommodate Phillips without eviscerating laws that require businesses that are open to the public to serve all customers.