US Supreme Court appears divided in 'gay wedding cake' case

The Houston case began in 2013 when Jack Pidgeon, a local Christian pastor, and Larry Hicks, an accountant, sued the city after Annise Parker, a Democrat who was its first openly gay mayor, gave municipal spousal benefits such as health insurance and life insurance to same-sex married couples.

In June, the Texas Supreme Court threw out the ruling favoring Houston, agreeing that the Obergefell decision "did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons", and remanded the case back to the trial court to allow the men to make their arguments again.

The conservative members of the court appeared to be more receptive to the argument that Phillips, who describes himself as a "cake artist", should not be forced to create something that conflicts with his religious beliefs. "It's not about refusing business", she said. "If that's the case, how do you draw a line?"

The two sides concur that a decision for Phillips would likewise open the way to claims from other people who take part in proficient administrations - flower specialists, for instance - to guarantee that their religious freedom exempts them from open convenience laws material to different organizations. His senior counsel, Kristen Waggoner, said artists like Phillips should not be "forced to express" the views that the government dictates, like an acceptance for same-sex marriage.

The case concerns Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refused to make a cake for gay couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins' wedding, arging that doing so would violate his "religious beliefs".

"You have a view that a cake can be speech because it involves great skill and artistry", she said.

SCOTUS rejected an appeal of an earlier Texas Supreme Court decision, which undermined marriage equality by denying same-sex couples the rights and privileges they supposedly were entitled to following the landmark 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision.

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As anyone might expect, Mullins and Craig see the case through an altogether extraordinary focal point: separation. They will urge the court to embrace their interpretation of religious liberty principles, insisting that if they don't win, the rights of people of faith will be in serious jeopardy.

The case will now return to the Houston District Court, and the issue of whether the spouses of gays and lesbians must be afforded employment benefits will go through the court system on its own merits, potentially ending up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court once more.

The court noted that agency's analysis (which it reversed) - which asks whether the message was discriminatory - would lead to "absurd" results: for example, "a man who requests t-shirts stating, 'I support equal treatment for women, ' could complain of gender discrimination if HOO refused to print the t-shirts because it disagreed with that message".

The couple is being spoken to in court by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"In essence, the bakery seeks a constitutional right to hang a sign in its shop window proclaiming, 'Wedding Cakes for Heterosexuals Only, '" the ACLU's David D. Cole wrote in court briefs.

The first question taken up by the court was whether a cake can be considered artistic expression. "The inquiry, rather, is whether the Constitution gifts organizations open to general society the privilege to disregard laws against segregation in the business commercial center if the business happens to offer a creative item". The answer, Cole contends, is "no".

More generally, Justice Stephen Breyer said, "What is the line?" The baker is arguing for an exception from the anti-discrimination law. The commission ruled in their favor and Phillips then appealed the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

  • Jon Douglas