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Justices Side With Colorado Baker On Same-Sex Wedding Cake

Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips cracks eggs into a cake batter mixer inside his store, in Lakewood, Colo., March 10, 2014.
Brennan Linsley / Associated Press
Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips cracks eggs into a cake batter mixer inside his store, in Lakewood, Colo., March 10, 2014.
Justices Side With Colorado Baker On Same-Sex Wedding Cake
Justices Side With Colorado Baker On Same-Sex Wedding Cake GUEST: Dan Eaton, legal analyst

A ruling in one of the major cases in this U.S. Supreme Court session has been issued. It really has not decided much of anything. The case masterpiece cake shop versus Colorado civil rights commission was seen as pitting marriage equality against First Amendment religious freedoms. That is not the question the justices decided to tackle. There is another case in the pipeline that could address the central issue. Joining me is legal analyst Dan Eaton. Could you remind us what that central issue is? Why did this cake shop windup before the Colorado civil rights commission in the first place? >> Because a same-sex couple who came to the masterpiece cake shop and asked the baker Mr. Phillips to make a cake for a reception they were going to hold in Colorado. There are getting a married in Massachusetts. Mr. Phillips refused and made it clear he was refusing to make the cake celebrating same-sex marriage. But he would be willing to sell any other product to the couple. The couple file the complaint and was hurt by the Colorado civil rights commission. There was a hearing. The civil rights commission ruled against the baker who appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals which affirmed the ruling and it wound up to the Supreme Court. Mr. Phillips appealed. >>> The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Baker. Not because they found that he had the right to refuse to make the cake. And explained that? >> It is important to understand that there are two rights that the baker was extending. One was his free speech as a baker artist and not to be compelled by the state to make a cake that interfered with what he wanted to say. The other was a free exercise of religion of right. That is he should not be compelled to engage in an act that offended his Christian religious beliefs. That he said precluded him making a cake that celebrated same-sex marriage. What the U.S. Supreme Court said was that the process was tainted. Because the civil rights condition in hearing Mr. Phillips appeal was insufficiently respectably full of his --. It was said by one of the commissioners that said, I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing at the last meeting freedom of religion and religion has be used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history whether it be slavery, the Holocaust. The commissioner went on to suggest that the man's religious use to decline to make the cake was a despicable. And it was rhetorical. All of which Justice Kennedy said was an indication that the commission did not apply the law neutrally. In fact, it applied it in a way that treated Mr. Phillips for -- religion disrespectfully and that offended the First Amendment. And they've required a decision to be vacated. >>> Why would the court decide such a major case on such a narrow question? >> Because you decided a narrow question to achieve a broad majority. Understand that six justices from the full range of the court's ideological spectrum signed on in full to Justice Kennedy's opinion just like Thomas agreed with much of the reasoning and the result but did not sign on to the opinion. That's where you see a lot of 7-2. This was a narrow case specific decision. When you look at the concurrent opinions, there were a number of separate opinions in this case. You realize that this broader fight is only just getting started. >>> There is a case Arlene's flowers versus the state of Washington that could bring this larger issue before the court again. What are the details of that case? Speaking the details are essentially indistinguishable from the details in the Colorado case except you are dealing with a Floriston not a baker. You had a same-sex couple in the state of Washington go to a florist with whom they had done business for a long time. They asked for flowers for their wedding the floors declined saying it offended her Christian beliefs. They sued and won and the Washington Supreme Court one -- affirmed. Now and Thursday, the Supreme Court will consider whether to accept that case for review. This time the case is clean. There is no lower administrative body that may have made comments below that would've tainted the decision. They have to address the fundamental free speech and free exercise issues that were left unaddressed in this ruling. >>> What did the details of the various opinions in the masterpiece cake shop case tell us about how the justices might rule? Spend the solid conservatives on the court many corsets, Thomas, Leto are going to be firmly in favor of the florist if this case comes before the U.S. Supreme Court. Because they were very clear that the free exercise of religion justified Mr. Phillips in declining to bake this cake. On the other side, the liberals, meaning justices cake, Breyer, Ginsburg, Stoudamire, are going to be very unreceptive to that argument. In the balance will be justice Kennedy as always and also the chief justice in how to decide this case. Ultimately these critical questions at the core of these critical questions will be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. They were not in this case. >>> I have been speaking with attorney Dan Eaton a partner in the law firm Salzberg, Kaplan, Eaton. Thank you very much. >>> Thank you, Maureen.

The Supreme Court is setting aside a Colorado court ruling against a baker who wouldn't make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. But the court is not deciding the big issue in the case, whether a business can refuse to serve gay and lesbian people.

RELATED: From Travel Ban To Political Pins: Pending Decisions From The Supreme Court

The justices' limited ruling Monday turns on what the court described as anti-religious bias on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when it ruled against baker Jack Phillips. The justices voted 7-2 that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated Phillips' rights under the First Amendment.

Justice Anthony Kennedy says in his majority opinion that the issue "must await further elaboration." Appeals in similar cases are pending, including one at the Supreme Court from a florist who didn't want to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.