Ginsburg stressed that there "is much in the Court's opinion with which I agree", but she "strongly" disagreed with the idea that the same-sex couple "should lose this case". The ruling is a win for baker Jack Phillips but leaves unsettled the broader constitutional questions the case presented.
On Monday, the Supreme Court reached its decision with a majority ruling of 7-2, which was explained in detail by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Kennedy wrote that there is room for religious tolerance, pointing specifically to how the Colorado commission treated Phillips by downplaying his religious liberty concerns. Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Samuel Alito co-wrote their concurring opinions.
Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor cast the two dissenting votes. Those other rulings occurred while the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop was pending, the Supreme Court noted.
The person refusing has sincerely held religious beliefs. But the commission violated Phillips' rights, Kennedy said, because its "treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the honest religious beliefs that motivated his objection". Phillips declined, saying he did not make cakes for same-sex weddings because of his Christian beliefs and because same-sex marriage was not then legal in Colorado. For example, he refused to bake cakes that celebrated divorces, cakes that were infused with alcohol, cakes with obscene language or artwork, or cakes celebrating same sex weddings.
During high court arguments in December, the justices seemed closely divided, with those on the left deeply skeptical of Phillips' speech claim and those on the right more sympathetic to his religion claim.
Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, was previously judged through multiple phases of litigation to have violated Colorado's anti-discrimination law.
Jack Phillips, despite being softspoken and relatively benign about this whole affair, is still operating within homophobia. Phillips appealed, but the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the original decision, and the Colorado Supreme Court would not hear his case. The pro-homosexual Human Rights Campaign marshalled numerous corporations and food-industry personalities to weigh in against him. "I don't believe that Jesus would have made a cake if he had been a baker", he said on ABC's The View.
"This case is about more than us, and it's not about cakes", Mullins said in an interview previous year. Moreover, Kennedy added, the commission's treatment of Phillips' religious objections was at odds with its rulings in the cases of bakers who refused to create cakes "with images that conveyed disapproval of same-sex marriage". "But this wasn't just a business decision".
Phillips lost several appeals before the Supreme Court agreed to take the case.
Initially, the Colorado courts ruled that the state's public accommodation law banned discrimination by companies offering their services to the public.
The decision will likely mean the Colorado Civil Rights Commission will rehear the case, although there's no reason to think the outcome will be different even if the commissioners approach it differently as advised by Kennedy.