The Atlantic

Justice Kennedy’s Masterpiece Ruling

The Supreme Court found in favor of a baker who refused to sell a cake to a same-sex couple, but used a rationale that sheds little light on the case’s larger civil-rights implications.
Source: Aaron Bernstein / Reuters

When the Supreme Court opened its October term last year, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commissionthe “gay wedding cake” case—loomed as a blockbuster, a major step toward resolving conflicts between religious freedom and anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people in general and same-sex married couples in particular.

But someone left the cakeshop in the rain.

On Monday, the Supreme Court produced the melted remnant. By a contentious majority of 7–2, the Court held for the religious baker, Jack Phillips, who had refused to sell a cake to a same-sex couple, Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, for a post-hoc celebration of their out-of-state wedding. It used a rationale applicable only to this case, which sheds no light on the larger civil-rights issues.

It was obvious at oral argument in December that the case had what Supreme Court insiders call “vehicle problems”—meaning that the facts andAdam Liptak the concept of a “clean vehicle.”)

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