SOURCE ALERT: U Miami Law Professor Digs into U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission


The United States Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favor of the bakers today in the landmark civil rights case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. At the heart of the case is whether a state public accommodation law outlawing sexual orientation discrimination violates either the Free Exercise or Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The case grew out of a bakery’s refusal, on religious and speech grounds, to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage celebration.

Professor Caroline Mala Corbin has followed the case closely and written about it since 2012. A constitutional law expert, Corbin’s scholarship focuses on the First Amendment’s speech and religion clauses, particularly their intersection with equality issues.

What does the ruling mean and do you agree?  The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the bakers, but on very narrow grounds.  It held that the hearing the bakers received from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was tainted by animus, and therefore overturned the Commission’s findings.  The Court did not actually rule on the underlying constitutional question, which was whether the Free Speech Clause or Free Exercise Clause gave bakers the right to discriminate.

 Was there anything surprising or notable in the opinion either in the majority or in the dissenting?  The decision is notable for its narrowness.  It never addressed whether refusing to bake a cake violates the Free Speech Clause or the Free Exercise Clause. Instead, it merely finds that the Commission’s hearing was not sufficiently neutral and respectful towards the Phillips.

Where does this leave LGBTQ rights?  Apart from Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, who lost today, the case leaves LGBTQ right about where it found them. 

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