All eyes were on Justice Anthony Kennedy Tuesday at a riveting Supreme Court argument where the issue was whether a baker may refuse to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Kennedy was the center of attention because, with the rest of the court appearing to be evenly split, he very likely will cast the deciding vote in the case. And he is the author of every major decision favoring gay rights that the Supreme Court has ever decided.
A Reagan appointee, Kennedy is at the same time a fierce defender of the First Amendment right of free speech and the free exercise of religion. But the clashes inherent in those rights appeared to prompt some conflicting questions and positions from Kennedy.
The case before the court involves much more than wedding cakes, and it could have huge implications for all retailers and service providers.
That's because the baker, Jack Phillips, owner of the Denver-area Masterpiece Cakeshop, claims his First Amendment right of free speech and religion exempts him from the state's anti-discrimination law. To Colorado, however, he is a retailer and is barred from discriminating based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
Tuesday's argument opened with a series of hypotheticals posed by the court's liberal justices. The questions were aimed at Phillips' claim that baking a cake for a same-sex wedding would unconstitutionally compel him to speak as an artist and cake creator on behalf of same-sex marriage, which he opposes.
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"At the wedding ceremony, the speech is of the people who are marrying, and perhaps the officiant," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. "But who else speaks?" Read more via NPR