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Opponents in high court wedding cake case differ over terms

By: The Associated Press
December 5, 2017 Updated: December 5, 2017 at 10:37 am
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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)

A Supreme Court case about a baker's refusal to make a cake for a same-sex couple is also a dispute over terminology.

Supporters of Masterpiece Cakeshop baker Jack Phillips see it as a case about religious freedom or religious liberty. Backers of the gay couple who were refused a cake say it's about Phillips seeking a religious exemption from Colorado's anti-discrimination law.

It's not unusual for opposing sides of controversial issues to disagree about the words they use to describe them. For example, abortion opponents call themselves "pro-life." Supporters of abortion rights call themselves "pro-choice."

A look at the opposing terminology in the wedding cake case:

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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Baker Jack Phillips and his supporters say this case is about Phillips' freedom to decline to bake a cake that is in conflict with his religious beliefs. "This case has always been about one thing: compelling Phillips to create custom wedding cakes," the baker's lawyers said in their final court filing before Tuesday's argument.

Mormon, Lutheran, evangelical and Jewish groups that support Phillips said that the court already has recognized the liberty of same-sex couples to marry. Those groups told the court that "it is equally important to protect the religious liberty of these conscientious objectors."

Representing Catholic organizations, lawyer John Bursch wrote, "American citizens should never be forced to choose between their religious faith and their right to participate in the public square."

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RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION

The other side says the main issue is invoking religion to seek an exemption from anti-discrimination laws. The civil rights group GLAAD says this case is about using religion to deny someone's rights. It distinguishes such claims of religious exemption from cases of religious freedom, where one person's assertion of rights does not harm anyone else.

"The exemption sought ... would expose many more LGBT people to the specter of discrimination and the attendant pressure to hide their identities and their relationships to avoid it," wrote lawyer Mary Bonauto, who argued the high court's 2015 case that extended same-sex marriage rights nationwide. Bonauto is representing GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

If the Constitution allowed "religiously motivated denials of service to same-sex couples," it probably also would allow people to be refused service based on their faith, Americans United for Separation of Church and State said in a brief that also includes other rights groups.

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