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Masterpiece Cakeshop Ruling Tastes Good, But Is Empty Calories

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While the Court ultimately granted that Masterpiece Cakeshop had been wronged, the majority ruling lacks any real protections for the First Amendment right of freedom of (dis)association.

By Ilya Shapiro           at fee.org

Today’s exceedingly narrow decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop kicks all the big questions down the road. While it’s gratifying that, by a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court reversed Colorado’s persecution of Jack Phillips—the baker who was happy to serve gay people but would not make a cake for a same-sex wedding—it did so only on the basis that the state commission charged with enforcing anti-discrimination law itself displayed anti-religious animus. That’s an unusual circumstance that’s not necessarily in play in the other wedding-vendor cases that periodically arise.

Today’s rule of decision is case-specific rather than some clarifying First Amendment principle.

Indeed, the petition of the Washington florist, Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, is currently pending before the Court; with today’s narrow ruling, the justices can’t simply send that case back to the state supreme court for reevaluation—because, again, today’s rule of decision is case-specific rather than some clarifying First Amendment principle.

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