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The Supreme Court on Monday delivered a relatively narrow win for Masterpiece Cakeshop, a Christian baker that refused to bake a custom cake for a same-sex couple.
The big picture: In a 7-2 decision, the court said Colorado officials in this case had not taken the baker's religious beliefs seriously enough, but also said that "some future controversy involving facts similar to these" could go the other way.
- Same-sex couples and people exercising their religious beliefs both tend to win at the Supreme Court. This case initially seemed like a head-on collision between the two — and that’s part of what made it so high-profile.
But the court punted on those big issues. It focused instead on the specifics of this case, noting that same-sex marriage was not yet legal in Colorado at the time this all happened, and pointing to evidence that Colorado officials had been dismissive of the baker’s beliefs.
- “The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, 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,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.
Between the lines: The fact that the court ruled so narrowly on the legal issues in this case is almost certainly the reason this was a 7-2 decision.
- Two liberal justices — Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan — joined Kennedy’s opinion. They would be highly unlikely to join a more sweeping ruling against same-sex couples.
- In fact, Kennedy might not join such a decision either. He has written all of the court’s most significant decisions in favor of same-sex couples’ rights.
What's next: The other big pending Supreme Court decisions.