In an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 7 in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice sided with the Christian bakery owner who refused to design and create a cake for a same-sex wedding. The brief (full text) argues:Heightened scrutiny is appropriate at least where a law both compels the creation, for a particular person or entity, of speech or of a product or performance that is inherently communicative, and compels the creator’s participation in a ceremony or other expressive event….Public accommodations laws compel expression— whether speech or expressive conduct— when they mandate the creation of commissioned goods or the provision of commissioned services that are inherently communicative. That situation might arise if a public accommodations law were applied to painters, photographers, poets, actors, musicians, or other professional artists. Assuming that those artists offer their creative services to the public, a State might attempt to bar a painter who agrees to paint a custom portrait of an opposite-sex couple at their wedding from declining to paint a same-sex couple, or vice versa. Or it might attempt to bar a freelance graphic designer who agrees to design fliers for the upcoming meetings of a Jewish affinity group from declining to do so for a neo-Nazi group or the Westboro Baptist Church. So long as the artist offers to produce expression for a fee, a public accommodations law might purport to restrict her ability to determine which art she will create and for whom….A public accommodations law exacts a greater First Amendment toll if it also compels participation in a ceremony or other expressive event. That participation may be literal, as in the case of a wedding photographer who attends and is actively involved with the wedding itself. Or that participation may be figurative, as when a person designs and crafts a custom-made wedding ring that performs an important expressive function in the ceremony. Either way, such forced participation intensifies the degree of governmental intrusion.Some 15 other amicus briefs in support of petitioner have also been filed. Links to them are available on SCOTUSblog’s case page. The due date for amicus briefs in support of respondent has not yet arrived. Christian News reports on the filing of the amicus brief.
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