Justices Sharply Divided in Gay Rights Case

Later, though, Justice Kennedy said that a state civil rights commission that had ruled against the baker had been “neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’s religious beliefs.”

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People gathered to support Jack Philipps, the Colorado baker, outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Tuesday.

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Zach Gibson for The New York Times

The case arose from a brief encounter in 2012, when David Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Mr. Phillips’s bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, in Lakewood, Colo. The couple were going to be married in Massachusetts, and they were looking for a wedding cake for a reception in Colorado.

Mr. Phillips turned them down, saying he would not use his talents to convey a message of support for same-sex marriage as that would clash with his religious faith. The couple say they were humiliated by Mr. Phillips’s refusal to serve them, and they filed a complaint with Colorado’s civil rights commission.

Kristen K. Waggoner, a lawyer for Mr. Phillips, said the state should not be able to force him to endorse same-sex marriage in violation of his religious principles. But she took a different position about whether a baker could refuse to create a cake for an interracial marriage.

Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco, the Trump administration lawyer, also said that it would be harder to justify discrimination against interracial couples than gay ones. “Race is particularly unique,” Mr. Francisco said.

That distinction did not seem to sit well with some justices. And David D. Cole, a lawyer for the couple, said it would relegate gay and lesbian couples to “second-class status.”

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the court’s 2015 decision had anticipated good-faith disagreements over gay unions.

“It went out of its way to talk about the decent and honorable people who may have opposing views,” Chief Justice Roberts said, referring to Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. (The chief justice had dissented.)

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The couple, Charlie Craig, left, and David Mullins, say that businesses open to the public should not be allowed to discriminate against gay men and lesbians.

Credit
Zach Gibson for The New York Times

The remark was a sign of Justice Kennedy’s central role in the new…

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