In a 7-2 decision, the justices said that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown "impermissible hostility" toward religion when it found that the baker, Jack Phillips, violated anti-discrimination laws by refusing to bake the requested cake.
But the justices did not issue a definitive ruling on the circumstances under which people can seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws based on their religious views.
The case began back in 2012 when couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins visited Phillips' Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a cake for their wedding, and were told that Phillips would not bake them a cake based on his religious belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor cast the two dissenting votes.
Writing for the case, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that while it is unexceptional that Colorado law "can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions that are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion". The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights commission, arguing Phillips violated the law in discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
"The government, consistent with the Constitution's guarantee of free exercise, can not impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens and can not act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices", the opinion continued. In their decision posted on Monday, the justices ruled the Colorado Civil Rights Commission didn't maintain religious neutrality when it ruled against Phillips. "This is about whether the government can use the coercive power of the state to force people to agree that was a good decision and celebrate those kind of marriages even if it violates their beliefs", Tedesco, continued.
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Craig and Mullins, on the other hand, wanted a wedding cake with no message on it.
The court ruled narrowly Monday.
Nearly six months to the day after the oral argument, the justices today handed Phillips a victory, even if not necessarily the ruling that he and his supporters had hoped for. But Jack Phillips, the owner of the bakery and a devout Christian, refused the couple's request because he is not willing to design custom cakes that conflict with his religious beliefs. The commissioner seemed "neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips' religious beliefs", Kennedy said in December.
According to the opinion, the case hinged on how a Colorado Commission reviewing the case treated Phillips' and his religious beliefs.
Kennedy concludes his ruling by making clear it provides no precedent for cases in which in individuals and businesses assert a First Amendment right to refuse service to same-sex couples, insisting that determination must come at a later time.