Supreme Court Case Declined to Rule that Religious Views of Business Owners Provide a Broad License to Discriminate

(Washington, D.C.) The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In its decision, the Court did not accept the invitation to announce that businesses may discriminate against LGBTQ individuals but decided the case narrowly, based on facts specific to the case at hand. In this case, Charlie Craig and David Mullins were refused service at a Colorado bakery in 2012 because they are a same-sex couple and the owner said that to make them a wedding cake would violate his personal religious beliefs.   

In reviewing this case, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the Colorado courts had decided that the bakery owner could not discriminate against this couple on the basis that they are a same-sex couple. Today, the Supreme Court’s decision bypassed larger legal issues as to whether religion can allow a business to refuse to follow antidiscrimination laws because it found that some of the Colorado Commissioners’ comments reflected bias against the business owner’s position.

The following is a statement by Emily Martin, Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice at the National Women’s Law Center:

“Today, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that states may continue to enforce protections for LGBTQ customers, and it specifically emphasized the Constitution’s protection of marriage equality across the nation and its recognition of the equal dignity of LGBTQ people. It declined to rule that the religious views of a business owner provide a broad license to discriminate. While the Court faulted Colorado’s handling of this specific matter based on concerns unique to this case, it expressed skepticism that businesses can issue blanket refusals of service in violation of civil rights law in the name of religion.”


For immediate release:  June 4, 2018
Contact:  Maria Patrick ([email protected]) or Olympia Feil ([email protected])