“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts,” Justice Kennedy wrote, “all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”
The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, No. 16-111, arose from a brief encounter in 2012, when David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Mr. Phillips’s bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, in Lakewood, Colo. The two men were going to be married in Massachusetts, and they were looking for a wedding cake for a reception in Colorado.
Mr. Phillips turned them down, saying he would not use his talents to convey a message of support for same-sex marriage at odds with his religious faith. Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig said they were humiliated by Mr. Phillips’s refusal to serve them, and they filed a complaint with Colorado’s civil rights commission, saying that Mr. Phillips had violated a state law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig won before the Colorado civil rights commission and in the state courts.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that Mr. Phillips’s free speech rights had not been violated, noting that the couple had not discussed the cake’s design before Mr. Phillips turned them down. The court added that people seeing the cake would not understand Mr. Phillips to be making a statement and that he remained free to say what he liked about same-sex marriage in other settings.
Gay rights groups argued that same-sex couples are entitled to equal treatment from businesses open to the public. A ruling for Mr. Phillips, they said, would undermine the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling guaranteeing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, marking the unions of gay couples second-class marriages unworthy of legal protection.