(CNN) — Just back after ruling in favor of a cake baker who refused to make a cake for a wedding celebration of a same-sex couple, the Supreme Court on Monday wiped away an opinion that went against a florist who declined to make an arrangement for a same-sex couple’s marriage.
In an unsigned order, the court sent the case back down to a lower court and asked it to revisit the florist’s case in light of the ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop.
The court’s order suggests that while the justices want the lower court to take another look at the case given the court’s most recent ruling, the justices themselves aren’t ready to jump into the contentious debate for now. When they ruled in favor of the baker, Jack Phillips, they largely tailored their opinion to the specifics of his case.
Writing for the 7-2 majority in the Masterpiece ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy held that the commissioners on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility toward Phillips religious beliefs.
But in ruling in favor of Phillips, the court dodged the larger constitutional questions concerning whether a business can decline to sell a product out of religious objections to same sex marriage.
CNN legal analyst and University of Texas Law School professor Steve Vladeck said the court sending the case back to lower courts was “effectively leaving it to those courts, in the first instance, to sort out just how broad or narrow their” decision in the cakeshop decision was.
“In the process, it’s quite possible that this one-sentence order will open the door to serious disagreements among the lower courts over when and under what circumstances business owners can refuse to serve same-sex couples,” Vladeck said on Monday’s move in the florist case.
Supporters of LGBT rights will be dismayed the court wiped away a lower court opinion on Monday that went against the florist who denied services. They would have preferred to see that opinion remain on the books to influence other lower court judges considering similar cases. A more preferable result for their side would have been a straight denial from the Supreme Court.
At the same time, if the court had agreed to take up the case, it might have set off alarm bells in the LGBT community, which would wonder if the justices — who kept the Masterpiece case so closely tailored to the specific facts in the case — might have an appetite for a broader ruling in support of business owners with religious objections to same-sex marriage in the next case.
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