The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday, December 5, in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which baker Jack Phillips argued that his religious beliefs should exempt him from having to bake a cake for the wedding of two men, even though Colorado’s anti-discrimination law dictates that places of public accommodations such as bakeries may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (or race, national origin, sex or other protected classes). The week before, on Monday, November 27, David Cole from the ACLU mooted the case at HUSL, arguing on behalf of the couple who sought the wedding cake. Panelists at the moot included attorneys that have argued other important civil rights cases in front of the Supreme Court. The moot was well-attended by #HUSL students.
"Our students are getting a first-class experience through this invaluable exposure to Supreme Court practice," said Prof. Valerie Schneider, interim director of the Clinical Law Center. She said the law school has increased its capacity to provide moots for the students' benefit and for attorneys arguing civil rights cases at the Supreme Court. "In the past few years, we’ve hosted moots for attorneys presenting cases that involved the Fair Housing Act, the death penalty, affirmative action, marriage equality and other cutting-edge civil rights issues," she said.
So what will the Court decide in this case? Professor Schneider, who attended the Supreme Court's oral arguments, said that the case may hinge on Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion. "When questioning Solicitor General Francisco, who argued on behalf of the United States in support of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Justice Kennedy initially seemed concerned that, if the baker were to win, he could put up a storefront sign indicating that he wouldn’t bake for LGBT couples (or members of other protected classes). Later, however, Justice Kennedy seemed concerned that if he sided with the gay couple, it would be a blow to religious tolerance," she opined. "But who knows? Every attorney who has mooted a case at Howard University School of Law has prevailed in front of the Supreme Court. So, there's that.”
Pictured: Prof. Schneider (left) and others at the Supreme Court.
For more information about the Clinical Law Center, please visit law.howard.edu.