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Supreme Court Hears Gay Wedding Cake Arguments


FILE - people gather in Lafayette Park to see the White House illuminated with rainbow colors in commemoration of the Supreme Court's ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington.

The Chief Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in one of their biggest cases of the year Tuesday, a five-year-old controversy over whether a baker should have been obligated by law to provide a wedding cake to a same-sex couple.

The case centers on the boundaries of free speech and free exercise of religion, in light of laws that ban business owners from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, sexuality, or other factors.

Interest groups are backing each side.

The gay couple, Colorado residents Charlie Craig and David Mullins, have their support from the American Civil Liberties Union, arguing that the couple should have been able to purchase their custom wedding cake from the Masterpiece Cakeshop.

The owner of the cake shop, Jack Phillips, is backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which argues that Phillips, who designs the cakes, is an artist, making his products exempt from public accommodations laws.

The case before the Supreme Court is an appeal brought by Phillips and his supporters, after the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld an original ruling requiring Masterpiece Cakeshop to provide custom cakes for same-sex couples and change company policies and training to reflect the change.

Phillips has refused to comply with the order and instead stopped making wedding cakes, a move he has said cost him a great deal of business.

One of the arguments the justices considered on Tuesday was whether a wedding cake should be considered a product or an expression of free speech. Phillips, a conservative Christian, says making a cake for the couple would amount to expressing his support of their marriage.

A ruling in the case is not expected before 2018.

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