In 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. The two men were to be married soon and were in the market for a cake.
But Jack Phillips, the man in charge, refused them service. He said same-sex marriage was at odds with his beliefs and he didn’t feel comfortable using his talents for such a purpose. While the two men could’ve sought business elsewhere or even simply ostracized the baker, that wasn’t good enough. In response to what they called a humiliating experience, they filed a complaint which since spiraled into a massive case.
It’s one of those cases that combines many important questions about the nature of business, religious freedom, and tolerance – making the right verdict even more difficult to achieve.
But the burning question was one that got the attention of gay rights defenders, advocates of individual freedom, and plenty of media outlets as well. It sparked a massive debate about what constituted fairness, unprofessionalism, bigotry, and a variety of other terms thrown around in the comment sections and feedback areas for this case.
While the public opinion can weigh heavily on legislative calls, ultimately, the American judicial system has the final and thus most important say in these matters. They recently made their decision, voting 7-2 in favor of the Colorado baker and saying he is justified from a Constitutional perspective on refusing to make the cake due to religious reasons.
The baker saw his position understood and his stance vindicated by the Supreme Court who said they believed his rejection of the service request was motivated by sincere religious beliefs. In this aspect, the case could be viewed as more of one dedicated to religious freedom than individual liberty.
But the end result is the same – a small business owner getting a big victory against a strong movement. A movement that, while well-intentioned and vital in a more sensitive age, has been accused of being pushy in several instances. This could be viewed as a landmark case and could set a precedent for the future.
One justice wrote that it was important to make sure not to disrespect religious beliefs while also making an effort to make it easy for gays to seek market services. The justice said: “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.”
While some involved with the case claim this will allow for further discrimination against gay people in the future, others say a failure to protect individual and religious freedoms could lead to more serious long-term problems.
But a person can’t have their cake and eat it too, as the old adage goes. The power to seek service freely also entails a right of vendors to turn prospective customers away – so long as they do so at their own risk.