If those playing down the importance of the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling are wrong, those overstating it are also off base. “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane claimed that “it’s a shorter walk than we think, particularly today, from ‘I won’t bake them a cake because they’re gay’ to ‘I won’t seat him here because he’s black.’ ” This wildly mischaracterizes Mr. Phillips’s position. The Masterpiece proprietor serves all customers, regardless of sexual orientation, but he can’t in good conscience communicate all messages or celebrate all events. He is motivated by his Christian belief that marriage unites husband and wife, not his customer’s identity.
This disagreement about the definition of marriage occurs among people of good faith motivated by honorable theological and philosophical premises, as Justice Kennedy recognized in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 same-sex-marriage decision. And as he wrote in Masterpiece, “religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”
That is why states should be careful not to abuse antidiscrimination policy in a way that amounts to an enforcement of an orthodoxy regarding questions about sex on which reasonable people can disagree.
Monday’s ruling won’t open the floodgates to invidious discrimination as critics imagine. But neither should we gainsay its wider applicability. The Supreme Court has said clearly that the government may not punish people because of their religious beliefs. Any generally applicable, neutral law must serve the common good, not punish those whom people in power deem to be “wicked.”