#TodayItsCake: Masterpiece Explained

Should discrimination be legal?

We don’t think so either.
You may have heard about the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
But you may still be wondering… what’s the big deal about a cake?

What’s the deal with cake?

This case involves Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery that is open to the public, refusing to serve a gay couple in violation of Colorado’s non-discrimination law. The bakery claimed it should be exempt from the state’s nondiscrimination law due to the religious beliefs of the bakery owner. The couple sued, and the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. On June 4, 2018 the highest court in the land announced its ruling in the case. While the court ruled narrowly for the baker on the grounds that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not acted impartially when originally considering the case, it also affirmed the importance of nondiscrimination laws and made it clear that states can protect LGBT people from discrimination in the marketplace.

BOTTOM LINE: The Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop does NOT permit widespread discrimination. BUT, we have a long way to go.

YESTERDAY IT WAS BARBEQUE. TODAY IT’S CAKE. TOMORROW…

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination in public places based on race, color, religion, or national origin. Cases such as Newman v. Piggie Park – where a barbeque restaurant owner refused to serve Black people – put the Act to the test, and ultimately the Supreme Court upheld our country’s ideals of equal protection under law. But cases like Masterpiece show us that the fight is not over. We must continue the fight for equality, build from the historic Civil Rights Act, and include comprehensive protections for all people.

DID YOU KNOW: Only 40% of all states have comprehensive nondiscrimination laws that protect all Americans from being refused public goods and services.

Nondiscrimination protections graphic from Movement Advancement Project


The Masterpiece Cakeshop case is not just about cake. It raised the question of whether a broad range of businesses would be given a license to discriminate against a wide range of customers. While this decision did not strip away Colorado nondiscrimination laws, we still do not have universal protections for all.

BOTTOM LINE: Businesses may try to use this narrow ruling to establish discriminatory policies that refuse people public goods simply because of who they are.

Sure, #TodayItsCake, but someday YOU could be the one turned away.


Why does this matter?

The Masterpiece Cakeshop decision is a perfect example of how the Supreme Court impacts people’s daily lives. Shortly after the highest court in the land released several major decisions – including Masterpiece – Justice Kennedy announced his retirement from his lifetime position on the Court. You’re probably thinking: what does that have to do with Masterpiece?

Quite a bit, actually. With the SCOTUS vacancy, our basic civil and human rights are at stake – including living free from discrimination. Whoever replaces Kennedy will likely be the deciding vote on major cases similar to this one. As we approach the next Supreme Court session in October, it is imperative for every justice to protect the rights of all people, not just a few.