US top court rules for baker who refused to make wedding cake for gay couple

The US Supreme Court (pictured) on Monday sided a Colarado baker who refused to make wedding cake to a same-sex couple in 2012.

Setting aside an earlier ruling by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Court of Appeals which favoured the couple, the apex court observed that the commission showed religious hostility towards the baker Jack Phillips, 62, and violated his freedom of expression at a time when gay marriage was not legalised nationwide.

While pronouncing the 7-2 verdict on the five-year old legal battle, the top court said the outcome should not be seen as a precedent for chefs, bakers, florists, photographers and videographers who oppose same-sex marriage to refuse commercial wedding services to such couples.

The court may reach a different conclusion in similar cases in future. Such cases in other circumstances must await further elaboration in courts, said Justice Anthony Kennedy who wrote the landmark decision.

Appeals in similar cases are pending, including one at the Supreme Court from a florist .

Most of Justice Kennedy’s previous rulings were in favour of gay rights including the 2015 decision legalising gay marriage nationwide. But in Monday’s ruling, he said the government cannot impose regulations hostile to citizens’ religious beliefs.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, the two dissenting justices, upheld the commission’s ruling that Phillips violated the Colorado anti-discrimination law by refusing service to the couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins.

Craig, 37, and Mullins, 33, visited the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, in July 2012 to order a wedding cake. But the shop’s owner,Phillips, said he cannot make a cake for the same-sex couple.

Craig and Mullins complained to the state Civil Rights Commission, which decided against Phillips and ordered him to undergo anti-discrimination training. The commission even termed his religious faith “as despicable” and compared it “to defences of slavery and the Holocaust.”

Such a strong view by the commission and the appeals court made the top court examine whether they had erred in their judgement.