It Was Never Just About the Cake

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case in which a cakemaker refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, because of his religious beliefs about marriage. At its core, this case was about much more than cake. It was a case about whether a business that is open to the public can deny its services to some based on the business owner’s religious beliefs. It was a case about, as I wrote in The Forward ahead of the ruling, core American and Jewish values of inclusion, equal treatment, and the true meaning of religious freedom.

In the end, the Court issued a very narrow ruling in favor of the baker based on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s handling of this case, without deciding the broader issues in question. The outcome is, of course, disappointing, and not the ruling that Bend the Arc and our colleagues had urged the Court to make. And while the ruling could have been far worse, it is not without understandable negative impact. As my friend Sam Brinton poignantly shared at the rapid response rally outside the Court, the Trevor Project’s crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline received a spike in calls following the decision (Sam is at 18:30 in this video). I was honored to speak at that same rally, and be interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network as a counter to those who would misuse religion as a weapon of discrimination.  

For now, our fight continues. It is ever more clear that our country desperately needs the more permanent protections offered by legislation like Equality Act. In the meantime, there are more cases in the Court’s pipeline that may require them to answer the broader legal question of whether businesses can use religious beliefs to justify this kind of discrimination; we will be actively monitoring these cases as the Court decides whether to take them up. Our work to fight for the inalienable rights of our LGBTQ friends and neighbors continues apace, as does our commitment to true religious freedom and our deeply held Jewish values of equity, inclusion, and justice.