LGBT equality vs. religious freedom

Can a shop owner refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple on religious grounds?

That’s the question before the Supreme Court this session in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

It’s being framed as a First Amendment issue by the baker, Jack Phillips, and his legal team. Their argument is that baking a cake is an exercise of artistic expression, and that having the right to refuse to create the cake for a gay wedding is protected by the freedom of religion.

Susan Sommer, the associate legal director and director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal, joined Salon’s Alyona Minkovski and Amanda Marcotte for a discussion of the case on “Salon Talks.”

“It is definitely not an endorsement of marriages of same sex couples when you sell a cake,” Sommer said. “Nobody thinks that it means that this baker must really love this couple. This is commerce after all. This is wedding services.”

The state of Colorado passed a statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in a public accommodation and many LGBT equality advocates believe the issue has already been litigated in previous cases about discrimination based on race. Sommer calls this lawsuit an attempt to create “gay exceptionalism” to anti-discrimination.

Watch the full conversation to hear about the political breakdown and what can be gleaned from oral arguments made before the Supreme Court this week.

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