On Monday, the US Supreme Court decided the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The origins of the case lay in a baker’s religion-based objection to serving a same-sex couple wishing to buy a cake for their wedding. The Court’s decision favored the baker, ruling on procedural grounds that he did not receive a fair hearing from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, members of which had used language that Justice Kennedy, writing the Court’s majority opinion, said constituted evidence of “hostility to religion.” In this sense, the ruling was quite narrow, leaving unresolved the larger question of whether or not it is constitutional for businesses to deny services to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Americans. I refer the reader to the Viewpoint in SPH This Week by Professors Raifman and Ulrich, who discuss the legal basis of the court case in more detail.
In the Supreme Court hearing for Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, lawyers for the baker argued that he should not have to sell a cake to a same-sex couple because his religion does not support same-sex marriage.
Debates around this case have referenced potential implications for the dignity of sexual minority populations, but in the absence of data to ground the conversation.
In a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry, we found that state laws permitting the denial of services to same-sex couples are associated with a 46 percent increase in mental distress among gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults.