The Kind of Cake, Not the Kind of Customer

Philosophical Topics 46 (2):1-19 (2018)
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Abstract

In June 2018 the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, in which baker Jack Phillips refused to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding. The Court decided the case on fairly narrow grounds; in particular, it set aside the question of whether Phillips illegally discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation by refusing to sell the same cake to a gay couple that he would sell to a heterosexual couple. Concurring opinions by Justices Kagan and Gorsuch do address that question, however, and in this paper I explore the debate between them. By distinguishing between design-based and use-based refusals of service and then arguing that some use-based refusals are tantamount to discrimination on the basis of protected traits, I argue that Jack Phillips did indeed discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. I also argue that another baker, who refused to create a “Leviticus 18:22 ‘Homosexuality is a detestable sin’ ” cake, did not discriminate on the basis of religion. I thus side with Justice Kagan against Justice Gorsuch on the question of whether the Colorado commission treated the two bakers inconsistently.

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John Corvino
Wayne State University

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