By Bob Allen // Baptist News Global

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U.S. Supreme Court justices weighed religious freedom against LGBT rights during 60 minutes of oral arguments Dec. 5 about whether the First Amendment bars Colorado from requiring a baker to create a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Veteran court observers predict the verdict in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission will come down to a swing vote by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

According to SCOTUS blog analyst Amy Howe, Kennedy initially seemed sympathetic to the same-sex couple but later expressed concern that Colorado was not sufficiently tolerant of the baker’s religious freedom.

Howe and other observers at the hearing said conservative justices who spoke — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch — seemed to favor Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., who cited his religious beliefs in turning down a wedding cake order for a gay couple in 2012.

The court’s more liberal justices reportedly appeared to favor couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins and the Colorado statute that requires businesses engaged in any sales to the public to serve all customers regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation.

More than 100 amicus briefs intended to influence justices in the high-profile case included an October filing by religious groups including the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Arguing on behalf of the state of Colorado, the BJC brief said a commercial baker should not be able to refuse service to a same-sex couple based on the baker’s sincerely held religious belief about marriage.

“Religious liberty is a fundamental principle, protected in a variety of ways, including by state public accommodation laws,” BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman said in response to today’s oral arguments. “Colorado’s law ensures equal treatment in the marketplace without regard to religion and other characteristics. That protection is good for religious liberty.”

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