Predicting how the Supreme Court of the United States is going to rule on any particular case is always tricky. That said, when it comes to what might end up being the most consequential gay rights case of the year, things aren’t looking good for proponents of equality.
Officially titled Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, most people probably know the case in question as the one about the anti-gay baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012.
Five years ago, Charlie Craig and David Mullins approached Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips about baking a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. Phillips, citing his Christianity, refused, saying he would not compromise his religious and artistic freedoms for a gay wedding.
“I don’t believe that Jesus would have made a cake if he had been a baker,” Phillips said during an interview with ABC’s The View, adding, “I’m not judging these two gay men. I’m just trying to preserve my right as an artist to decide which artistic endeavors I’m going to do and which ones I’m not.”
As a result of his refusal, Phillips was charged with violating Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws. And after years of legal back and forths, the case was finally argued in front of the Supreme Court. If Phillips wins, it would set a major precedent for how small business owners to be able to discriminate against people for what they claim are religious reasons.
Citing the two-way need for tolerance in this situation, Justice Anthony Kennedy—widely seen as the deciding swing vote on this case—said: “It seems to me the state has been neither tolerant or respectful” in how it chose to apply its non-discrimination laws against Phillips.
Later, Kennedy pressed attorneys for Colorado on whether one commissioner on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had expressed bias against religious people by saying that using the rhetoric of freedom of religion as a means to “hurt others” was “despicable.”
Kennedy, who is responsible for some of the most historic pro-LGBTQ rulings in the court’s history, did express concerns that ruling in Phillips’ favor would give a green light to homophobic discrimination (which it would). But observers seemed skeptical that this would place him on the right side of the ruling.
The court is expected to issue its ruling on this case in the spring of 2018.