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Supreme Court weighs baker’s refusal to make cake for gay couple

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday is set to hear arguments in a major case on whether certain businesses can refuse service to gay couples if they oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds in a dispute involving a conservative Christian baker in Colorado who declined to make a wedding cake for two men.

The nine justices at 10 a.m. are due to hear an appeal brought by Jack Phillips, a baker who runs Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, of a state court ruling that his refusalviolated a Colorado anti-discrimination law.

In one of the biggest cases of the conservative-majority court’s nine-month term, the justices must decide whether the baker’s action was constitutionally protected, meaning he can avoid punishment under the Colorado law.

Phillips contends that law violated his rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. The Supreme Court arguments will focus on his free speech claim, based on the idea that creating a custom cake is a form of free expression.

The couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, call the baker’s refusal a simple case of unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation.

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The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in a landmark 2015 ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, one of the court’s five conservatives. The 81-year-old Kennedy, who has joined thecourt’s four liberals in major decisions on issues such as abortion and gay rights, could cast the deciding vote. Kennedy also is a strong proponent of free speech rights. [L2N1LU1W9]

The case highlights tensions between gay rights proponents and conservative Christians who oppose same-sex marriage.

A ruling favoring Phillips could open the door for businesses that offer creative services to spurngay couples by invoking religious beliefs, as some wedding photographers, florists and others already have done. Conservatives have filed other lawsuits also seeking to limit the reach of the 2015 gay marriage ruling.

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The legal fight broke out in 2012 when Phillips told Mullins and Craig that due to his Christian beliefs he would not be able to make a cake to celebrate their wedding.

The two men married in Massachusetts but wanted to celebrate their nuptials with friends in Colorado. At the time, Colorado allowed civil unions but not marriage between same-sex couples.

The couple turned to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a complaint on their behalf, saying Phillips had violated Colorado state law barring businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.

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The Colorado Civil Rights Commission found that Phillips had violated the law and ordered him to take remedial measures including staff training and the filing of quarterly compliance reports. In August 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals also ruled against Phillips.

The Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the case, prompting Phillips to appeals to the U.S.Supreme Court.

The ACLU said Phillips’ legal team at the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom is advocating for a “license to discriminate” that could have broad repercussions beyond gayrights.

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“I can’t emphasize enough how far sweeping the argument is both in terms of what it is saying about the Constitution and who will be affected,” ACLU lawyer Louise Melling said.

Phillips’ lawyers said creative professionals should not be forced to engage in expression that goes against their conscience.

“If the court were to say it could force someone like Jack … to be coerced, then it has the power to force anyone of us to speak those same messages and to violate our convictions,” Phillips’ attorney Kristen Waggoner said.

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(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)


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NYT columnist says one of Trump’s friends begged him to talk him out of launching war with Iran

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On Monday, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times spoke to CNN's Anderson Cooper, following President Donald Trump's attacks on him for calling his behavior racist in a recent article. The president accused him of "kissing [his] a**" in an Oval Office phone call.

Speaking to Cooper, Friedman denied Trump's characterization of their discussion.

"The president tweeted about a private conversation we had and lobbed in a few insults," said Friedman. "Basically, my response, which I put out on Twitter is that I was encouraged by a friend of his to speak to him after the downing of the American drone, because I thought it was wise that we not retaliate, and I thought he was wise not to retaliate, and this friend of his wanted me to encourage him in that, because he was evidently agonizing a little over that not retaliating. And I did that. I began the conversation by saying that 'I disagree with you, Mr. President on many things, but I think you did the right thing on this.' We talked for about four minutes. We also talked about China and we left it at that."

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Trump is a ‘human opioid’ who feeds racism to his ‘white identity cult’: author

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Democrats will lose the 2020 campaign if they treat it like a typical election and instead need to make a moral issue against President Donald Trump, author Tim Wise explained on MSNBC on Monday.

Wise is the author of the 2004 book White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son.

"As Democrats work on their strategy to counter President Trump ahead of the 2020 election. Anti-racism activist Tim Wise -- who helped to defeat David Duke in two campaigns in the 1990s -- provided this advice for Democrats," anchor Chris Matthews said.

He read excerpts of tweets from Wise.

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Trump asked right-wing conspiracy theorist congressman to help him pick his next Director of National Intelligence

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On Monday, Politico reported that President Donald Trump is consulting with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) about who he should consider to replace Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Nunes has led the Republican side of the House Intelligence Committee since 2015 and chaired the committee for four years, despite having no professional qualifications of any kind for that role. Since 2017, he has been known for his stunts and conspiracy theories intended to discredit the Russia investigation and throw suspicion on anyone who looks into Trump's conduct.

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