Jewish groups decry Supreme Court ruling in gay wedding cake case
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Jewish groups decry Supreme Court ruling in gay wedding cake case

Reform Movement and NCJW say court could have bolstered rights, but ADL takes solace in fact that decision won't affect other cases

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Lydia Macy, 17, left, and Mira Gottlieb, 16, both of Berkeley, Calif., rally outside of the Supreme Court which is hearing the 'Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission' today, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Lydia Macy, 17, left, and Mira Gottlieb, 16, both of Berkeley, Calif., rally outside of the Supreme Court which is hearing the 'Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission' today, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — US Jewish groups decried the US Supreme Court on Monday, after it ruled in favor of a Colorado baker’s right to refuse to build a wedding cake for a gay couple on the grounds that he objected to their union under his religious beliefs.

While the court’s 7-2 ruling on Masterpiece Bakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, applied only to this individual case, several Jewish organizations still expressed dismay over the decision as a step backwards in the struggle for civil rights.

“Though the ruling does not set a precedent to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people, it is a missed opportunity to affirmatively protect the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who heads of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

In the ruling, the justices cited anti-religious bias on the part of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, saying it was unfairly dismissive of baker Jack Phillips’ religious beliefs.

In this March 10, 2014, photo, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake inside his store in Lakewood, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

But the court stayed out of the thornier issue of whether people can avoid providing services to same-sex weddings because of religious beliefs

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said his group was “disappointed” by the ruling, but expressed hope in the fact that the verdict did not weigh in on the large issue at stake: whether a business can refuse service to gay and lesbian individuals.

“The Supreme Court decision does not give businesses the constitutional right to discriminate, and it does not change existing state anti-discrimination protections,” he said in a statement.

Yet the potential of the ruling to create ambiguities, or lead more businesses to think they can refuse service to LGBT persons, is precisely what disturbed the National Council of Jewish Women.

“Where the Supreme Court should have struck a clear and forthright blow upholding the nation’s civil rights protections against discrimination based on gender identity, the court instead muddied the waters by issuing a ruling that leaves the court’s ultimate intentions unclear,” said the group’s CEO Nancy Kaufman.

Mary Torres of Falls Church, Virginia, left, holds a rolling pin up in support of cake artist Jack Phillips, while outside of the Supreme Court with her daughter Maria Torres, right, Tuesday, December 5, 2017, during arguments on the ‘Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission’ case in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

At least one major Jewish organization “welcomed” the Supreme Court’s decision.

The Orthodox Union Advocacy Center praised the high court for affirming what it sees as religious protections from a hostile state government.

“Too many pundits and politicians have lately engaged in rhetoric that seeks to paint religious liberty in a negative light, especially as they seek to advance policies to which some have sincere dissent,” said Nathan Diament, the OU’s executive director for public policy.

“Today, the United States Supreme Court sent a clear message: that the demonization of religious beliefs – especially in policymaking – is constitutionally unacceptable,” he said.

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