Lawyers should move carefully before assuming the Supreme Court’s decision in the high-profile Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case signals that lawyers too can refuse to represent a client solely because of the lawyer’s strongly-held religious beliefs.
On June 2, 2018, the High Court ruled 7-2 in Masterpiece Cakeshop that the baker could freely refuse service to a same-sex couple because it conflicted with his religious opposition to gay marriage.
The Court, however, avoided the larger question of whether a business owner could refuse the sale of items or services to members of the LGBTQ community, relying instead on the law as it existed in 2012 and the specific underlying facts of the case.
Because of the Court’s narrow ruling, some legal experts remain doubtful the decision will result in lasting judicial precedent.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakes begs the question: if a baker may constitutionally refuse service to a client based on strongly-held religious viewpoints, does it follow that a lawyer should be able to do the same? In short, the answer is – it depends.