Back in 2012, a controversy arose when Colorado baker Jack Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig. The gay wedding cake case made national headlines and incited a debate among Americans. Was this wedding cake controversy a matter of discrimination, or was this a private business exercising its rights?
Now, the Colorado baker goes to the Supreme Court to plead his case. Opening arguments were made on Tuesday, and at least one of the Supreme Court Justices already had plenty to say about the wedding cake controversy. Justice Sonia Sotomayor fired hard questions at both Phillips’s attorney Kristen Waggoner and Solicitor General Noel Francisco.
Despite the fact that the Colorado Civil Rights Division found that this was, in fact, an instance of discrimination, Phillips and his attorney have taken their gay wedding cake case to the highest court in the land, citing concerns over how this might infringe on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned Waggoner, essentially arguing that the point of a dessert is to be eaten, not to be admired for a long period of time like a piece of art. Sotomayor also inquired whether other occupations would be granted the same free speech protections, allowing them to deny service to specific groups of people.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued that a wedding cake is more artistic than a normal dessert. “[A wedding cake’s] function is more communicative and artistic than utilitarian.” However, David D. Cole of the ACLU argued in a brief that the bakery would essentially like to hang a “Wedding Cakes for Heterosexuals Only” sign in its window.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that anyone running a public business must serve any and all potential customers. She also cited instances of discrimination in the past, and asserted that laws changed because “we had public accommodation laws that forced people to do things that many claimed were against their expressive rights and against their religious rights.”
While Sotomayor made her position clear, Justice Anthony Kennedy, seen as the swing vote on the Supreme Court, seemed sympathetic to both sides. While he stated that he believed there was discrimination toward the couple ordering the cake, he also believed that the baker’s religious rights should not be entirely ignored in the case.
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