Civil Rights Leaders Discuss Implications of Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference Education Fund and ACLU co-hosted a telephone press briefing today to outline the broad implications of the recent Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

A recording of the press briefing can be found here.

On June 4, the Court ruled narrowly in favor of the cakeshop owner, but maintained the longstanding principle that business owners cannot deny equal access to goods and services. Each leader made clear that the Supreme Court’s ruling did not issue a license for businesses to discriminate, but that this case has broad implications for the protection of civil rights for all.

“The Court did not rule that the Constitution grants the right to discriminate; on the contrary, the decision maintains the longstanding principle that business owners cannot deny equal access to goods and services,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “But make no mistake: Monday’s decision makes clear that our fight for equal rights and dignity for all must continue. Yesterday it was barbeque. Today, it’s cake. Tomorrow it will surely be something else. And we will be there fighting, standing on the right side of history.”

“Monday’s decision is deeply disappointing for our clients, but to be clear, it was also not the win the bakery and the Trump administration wanted,” said Ria Tabacco Mar, senior staff attorney, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “The Supreme Court reversed the Colorado court’s decisions based on specific facts but also reaffirmed that states can and should prevent the real harms of discrimination against LGBT people and enforce laws meant to prevent that discrimination. While the bakery may have won this battle, we will continue to fight for the promise etched in stone above the Supreme Court: equal justice under law, for everyone, everywhere.”

“It is because of the injustices and indignities that Asian Americans and our fellow communities of color and LGBTQ individuals suffer that we know how much is at stake,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “It is incumbent upon us all to make America live up to the ideal that no one should be discriminated against, whether by region, ethnicity, national origin, race, or sexual orientation.”

“At its inception, the Constitution served to unify our nation, and anti-discrimination is one of the most critical unifying principles for our nation today,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). “One person’s religion — let alone the ‘religion’ of a business or entity — cannot override the unifying and principled axiom that no persons should face exclusion or discrimination due to bias or animus against their identity.”

“The ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop solidified the enduring strength of the Supreme Court’s decision in the historic Piggie Park case, which LDF litigated in 1968,” said Samuel Spital, director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “The Court preserved the power of our nation’s anti-discrimination laws by affirming that the First Amendment does not create a right for business owners to discriminate against their customers. And the vigorous enforcement of those anti-discrimination laws is as essential as ever. Equal treatment in public spaces is a fundamental component of equal citizenship, yet it is regularly denied to many Americans—and particularly Black Americans—simply because of who they are.”

About The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Education Fund, visit

About the ACLU
For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, we take up the toughest civil liberties fights. Beyond one person, party, or side — we the people dare to create a more perfect union. Learn more at

About Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC has a mission to advance the civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization.  Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

About the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF)
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the country’s first and foremost civil and human rights law firm. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.