Supreme Court takes on new clash of gay rights, religion

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: The U.S. Supreme Court is shown as the court meets to issue decisions May 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. The court today sided in a 7-1 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts with a Georgia inmate on death row in his appeal to the court citing efforts by prosecutors to exclude African Americans from a jury panel in the murder case. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is taking on a new clash between gay rights and religion in a case about a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado.

The justices said Monday they will consider whether a baker who objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds can refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The case asks the high court to balance the religious rights of the baker against the couple’s right to equal treatment under the law. Similar disputes have popped up across the United States.

The decision to take on the case reflects renewed energy among the court’s conservative justices, whose ranks have recently been bolstered by the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the high court.

The court will review a Colorado court decision that found baker Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop discriminated against the gay couple under Colorado law.

Phillips told the Supreme Court he has free speech and religious rights under the First Amendment that should protect him. He said he should not be compelled to bake a cake specifically to honor a same-sex marriage.

Colorado’s anti-discrimination law protects people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Charlie Craig and David Mullins filed a complaint against Phillips and his suburban Denver shop after Phillips said he would not create and decorate a cake in honor of their marriage.

Colorado did not permit same-sex couples to marry until 2014. Two years earlier, Craig and Mullin were planning to fly to Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage was legal, and host a reception in Denver upon their return to Colorado. They wanted a cake for the occasion.