Baked goods and evils
It's not often that a legal entanglement makes its way into our vernacular, and yet many readers may already have some inkling of the "gay cake" dilemma. The nub of the dilemma is whether a baker can refuse to decorate a cake for the celebration of a gay marriage if he or she believes it to be a religious transgression.
This is not some weird half-baked hypothetical but an actual legal battle
in the United States (Masterpiece Cakeshop vs Colorado Civil Rights Commission) underway right now. And despite the fact that the case has already been in the oven long enough to inspire spin-offs in Australia, Britain and elsewhere, the top American court has decided that it still needs more time.
This week the Masterpiece Cakeshop case came to a distinctly unsatisfying conclusion (for both sides) as the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favour of the the baker Jack Phillips on narrow grounds, so narrow as to have left untouched the complex legal and ethical problem at the heart of the case. Rather than allowing for wholesale religious discrimination the court found that in the early stage of this debacle the equal rights commissioners had been unduly critical of the religious defence proffered by Phillips. The court equivocated on the central issue, opting to fight another day (which will surely come soon enough
with another case about florists and gay flowers following hot on the heels of the first).
To Romania with love
While the US Supreme Court opted for evasive manoeuvres this week the top court in the European Union dove headfirst
into the fray. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that same-sex marriage spouses deserve the same residency rights as heterosexual spouses - even if the ceremony was performed in another country. It's a leap forward for civil rights campaigners and a lightning rod for those already disaffected with what they perceive as diktats from afar, especially in EU states that have banned same-sex marriage.
The decision wraps up a lengthy legal battle waged by Romanian citizen Adrian Coman and his American husband Clai Hamilton for legal recognition of their marriage (they tied the knot in Belgium back in 2010). Same-sex marriage is against the law in Romania, as it is in Bulgaria, Poland and Slovakia. Yet while member states are free to make such laws they are subservient to EU-wide regulations
. The ECJ outlined Romania's responsibility to recognise the validity of Hamilton's rights as a spouse of Coman and confer residency rights upon him. At its crux was the reaffirmation that the term 'spouse' in the relevant legislation was a gender-neutral term.
But many in Romania - which only decriminalised homosexuality in 2002 - remain staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage and will likely undermine the ECJ's ruling at every opportunity. As we've seen in recent years the European Union's decisions are challenged, ridiculed and ignored by its more stubborn member states - this will doubtful be an exception to that behaviour.
Meanwhile, although it is not a member of the Union, the Russian Federation has raised eyebrows as well with its demand that same-sex couples not hold hands or kiss while visiting Russia for the FIFA World Cup.
The Bermuda Triangle
We'll leave you with this frankly bizarre arm-wrestle in the tiny Caribbean British protectorate of Bermuda. Same-sex marriage rights vanished into thin air earlier in the year only to reappear again
this week. A High Court ruling allowing for gay civil unions had proved unpopular on the island territory and was overthrown earlier in the year by the governor. Outraged that Bermuda had become the first country to ban same-sex marriage after having allowed it, gay Bermudans sued the government and won. The Chief Justice (unsurprisingly) has agreed, stating that Parliament doesn't have the authority to overturn its ruling. There is a six-week opportunity for Bermudans (a majority of whom actually oppose same-sex marriage) to now challenge - and perhaps cause these rights to disappear once again.