After a quiet 2016-17 term, the Court is poised to rule on numerous hot-button issues in what could be the end of a balanced court if Justice Kennedy retires.
The Supreme Court begins its fall term on Oct. 2, with a number of high-profile cases on the docket.
It’s not clear how important Masterpiece Cakeshop is from a judicial standpoint, but as a flashpoint in the culture war, it’s probably the most recognizable case on the fall docket.
The facts are simple: conservative Christian owns a cakeshop, refuses to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. But the conflict is complicated. If the baker wins, that’s like putting a “No Gays Allowed” sign on the storefront window. How can that be OK? But if the baker loses, the government is basically forcing an artist to compromise his religious beliefs. Indeed, if this particular baker is to be believed, it’ll put him out of business, since he’s said he’d rather quit than violate his religious beliefs.
Of course, it’s not just about cake. If a baker can turn away a gay couple, why not a government employee, a hotelier, or a doctor? Are the constitutional rights of a gay person less equal than those of, say, a black person? The question is not rhetorical; it was only a few decades ago that segregationists claimed a religious justification for not seating whites and blacks together. They lost, but Leonard Leo, the right-wing ideologue directing Trump’s judicial picks, has said that such cases should be overturned. Today’s anti-gay baker is tomorrow’s (or yesterday’s) anti-black restauranteur.
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