THE CASE FOR NEUTRALITY: A RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF JUSTICE ANTHONY M. KENNEDY’S OPINION FOR MASTERPIECE CAKESHOP, LTD. v. COLORADO CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION

Open Access
Author:
Insley, Ryan Christopher
Area of Honors:
English
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr. Jack Selzer, Thesis Supervisor
  • Dr. Xiaoye You, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • LGBT
  • Religious Liberty
  • Rhetoric
Abstract:
On June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion penned by Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy for Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Justice Kennedy, writing for a 7-2 majority, ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop on the grounds that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to apply a neutral standard of review and violated the Free Exercise Clause. The case was a response to a conflict between LGBT civil rights and the First Amendment that began at Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012. The Christian owner of the shop, Jack Phillips, refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins. The two parties then underwent years of litigation through the state-level appeals process before reaching the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy faced a number of rhetorical and legal challenges in this case. He was tasked with weighing the positions of an ideologically divided court, balancing two fundamental rights he had protected throughout his legal career, and creating a fair standard of analysis to serve as precedent for handling these types of cases. In order to understand the case and articulate these challenges, I consulted a series of related case law, the six-year history of litigation between the two parties, the opinions and decisions of lower adjudicatory bodies, oral arguments before the Supreme Court, and the final opinion of the Supreme Court. My investigation led to the following conclusion: Justice Kennedy’s opinion for Masterpiece Cakeshop offers a framework by which judges may actualize the principle of neutral review which Kennedy emphasizes throughout the text. To validate this position, I take up Kennedy’s three main rhetorical tactics in applying neutral review: (1) Recognize the genuine challenge in balancing civil rights and civil liberties; (2) Provide strong and accurate articulations of each side’s positions; and (3) Denounce any signs of bias in any proceedings and work to avoid prejudice in your own deliberations and writings.