New Democracy Maps

Understanding Masterpiece Cakeshop and Similar Cases About Service Refusals

The Bottom Line

In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Court’s ruling was narrow and reversed the original ruling by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which the bakery was fined for violating the state’s nondiscrimination law. Why? Because the Supreme Court concluded that the commission had not acted impartially when originally considering the case.

These guides provide an overview of the case including background, frequently asked questions and topline messages to facilitate conversations about the case and similar cases about service refusals. These guides were released in conjunction with the Open To All campaign.
Recommended citations:
Movement Advancement Project. June 2018. "Understanding Masterpiece Cakeshop and Similar Cases About Service Refusals." (date of access).

Movement Advancement Project. November 2017. "Understanding Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission." (date of access).

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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