Can Businesses Ban LGBT People? Trump Lawyer Told Supreme Court It's OK For Shops To Hang Anti-Gay Signs

President Donald Trump's solicitor general told the Supreme Court Tuesday that businesses should be able to hang a sign in their window that announces they won't serve LGBT customers. 

Arguments are ongoing in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which centers on Jack Phillips, owner of the shop, who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The Trump administration filed a “friend of the court” brief in July on Phillips’s behalf.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who will likely be the swing vote in the case, asked the U.S. solicitor general, Noel Francisco, if Phillips could put a sign in his window saying, “We don’t bake cakes for gay weddings.”

Francisco said yes, as long as the cakes are custom made, because Phillips’s artistic expression in designing the singular cake would be covered under the First Amendment. 

GettyImages-886265118 The U.S. Supreme Court as arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case were being heard on December 5. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Justice Sonia Sotomayor responded by bringing up discriminatory treatment against LGBT people, saying that denying service to people because of their race, gender or religion is illegal and also applies to sexual orientation.

And the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which argued in favor of the same-sex couple, wrote in court briefs that seeking a constitutional right to “hang a sign in its shop window proclaiming, ‘Wedding Cakes for Heterosexuals Only’” is a violation of the rights of LGBT Americans.

“The question, rather, is whether the Constitution grants businesses open to the public the right to violate laws against discrimination in the commercial marketplace if the business happens to sell an artistic product,” the ACLU said, noting that the answer is simply no.

This didn’t seem to sway Kennedy one way or another. He said that while “tolerance is essential” in society, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission is being “neither tolerant nor respectful of Phillips’s religious beliefs.”

The case will not be decided immediately. The justices will still have to meet, discuss the outcome, write draft opinions and eventually vote. This could take a few weeks, months or even a year.

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